Last night, the Maccabi Haifa soccer team defeated their Maltese rival Ħamrun Spartans F.C. with a score of 4:0 in their first official match for the 2023/24 season.
It was the first of two matches in the first round of the Champions League qualifiers. Haifa opened its European season exactly as they opened it last year by defeating Greek Olympiakos 4:0 in an away game. The team has now defeated their Maltese rival in the same manner, leading to the third qualification in its history.
A day after the first match between them in which the Israeli team defeated Malta, the Maltese team is now demanding that the match be moved from Israel to a neutral country.
In a letter sent today (Wednesday) to the European football organization, UEFA, Ħamrun wrote that due to the riots that broke out last night between its fans and the Haifa fans and caused the game to be stopped for over half an hour, they demand that the return match be held next week, in a neutral country and not in Israel.
It is also written that the request to remove the game from Israel is due to "the political situation in Israel and the clashes between Israelis and Palestinians not far from Haifa".
Last night in the 55th minute of the game, clashes began between the two camps of fans who were close and without sufficient separation. During the clashes, the Maltese fans chanted slogans condemning Israel and threw objects at the Israeli fans. Israeli fans threw a burning flare into the adjacent stands. This caused the game to be stopped for over half an hour and Haifa, against which there is a suspended penalty of an away game without an audience due to the very same offense of lighting flares, will probably suffer a much more severe punishment.
In the meantime, two of the Haifa fans who were involved in the violent incident and were arrested by the Maltese security and police forces, were today brought before a court judge in the small island nation next to Italy.
The two are accused of using dangerous pyrotechnics without a license, participating in a riot, causing damage to the Century Stadium, threatening and throwing objects at people inside the complex and offensive behavior. The local judge sentenced the two and determined that their punishment would be 12 months of suspended imprisonment for three years, a fine of 300 Euros each and in addition they were banned from entering the sports fields in Malta for the next 12 months.