Israeli Soccer Team Maccabi Haifa Attacked By Protesters During Match In Austria

A top Israeli professional soccer team was attacked in the middle of a match in Salzburg, Austria Wednesday night, when protesters waving Palestinian flags and carrying signs with pro-Palestinian slogans stormed the pitch about five minutes before the clock ran out.

The match, a pre-season “friendly” between Maccabi Haifa, one of the top teams in the Israeli Premier League, and French club Lille, was stopped early when the protesters violently attacked the Maccabi Haifa players — not all of whom are Israeli.

The current Maccabi Haifa roster features four foreign players, one each from Cameroon, Spain, Bosnia-Herzogovina and Serbia.

Police in Salzburg said that about 20 protesters invaded the soccer field shouting slogans pertaining to the current Israel-Hamas war in Gaza. Most of the protesters were Austrians of Turkish origin, the police said.

A video of the altercation was posted on YouTube Wednesday with the description, “pro-Palestinian protesters storm the pitch and ATTACK the pigs #FreePalestine.”

Israeli athletes were most infamously targeted by Palestinian terrorists during the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany, when members of a Palestinian terrorist group known as Black September invaded the Israeli Olympic team’s dormitory, holding hostage and eventually killing 11 Israeli athletes and coaches.

Earlier this year, the Dutch professional soccer club Vitesse was forced to leave an Israeli player, Dan Mori, behind when the team staged a training camp in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates.

Last year, the International Tennis Federation banned Tunisia from the Davis Cup tournament after that country ordered one of its players not to take part in a match against an Israeli player.

While no one suffered significant injuries in the attack by protesters Wednesday, that took place in the Austrian town of Bischofshofen, in the state of Salzburg, the pitch invaders attempted to assault Maccabi Haifa team captain Yossi Benayoun as well as other players.

The protesters spit on one Israeli player. Maccabi Coach Aleksander Stanojevic, who is Serbian and was born in the former Yugoslavia, reportedly punched one protester and was then punched in the face himself.

A picture posted on Twitter showed one protester kicking Maccabi Haifa defender Eyal Meshumar.

Maccabi Haifa, a club founded in the city of Haifa in 1913 — 35 years before the founding of Israel itself — issued a statement blaming the Turkish media for inciting the attack. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan last weekend condemned Israel saying that the country “has surpassed Hitler in its barbarism.”

“We experienced an uncomfortable atmosphere of violence on the pitch and in the stands. The attack was premeditated and dangerous in light of the incitement in Turkish media,” the Maccabi Hiafa club said in a statment. “We denounce the violence that was used against us. This didn’t happen because of sport or football, it happened because we are a team which represents Israel.”

Austria’s prime minister also condemned the attack.

“Guests who are staying in Austria have the right to do so in safety, regardless of their origin and religion,” said Werner Faymann, after the attack on the Israeli team.