July 27 – More than 50 fans of Beitar Jerusalem, the club that contains the most notorious group of hooligans in Israeli football, have been rounded up following a series of police raids.
Hundreds of officers were involved in the crackdown on the gang known as La Familia which is renowned for violence, criminal connections, racist attacks and chants. The 56 arrests – including minors and nine soldiers – came after police undercover officers infiltrated gang members.
Last year, Beitar fans rioted in Charleroi in Belgium after Beitar were beaten 5-1 in a Europa League match during which Israeli fans threw flares on to the pitch and the Charleroi goalkeeper, Nicolas Penneteau, was hit by an object thrown from the crowd.
After the match, the group boasted about its performance in Europe on its Facebook page even as its behaviour was condemned by the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu.
Beitar has a unique unwanted status in Israel as the only top-flight club yet to field an Israeli-Arab. Three years ago, fans burned down the club’s training complex after the signing of two Muslim players.
Police officers found, among other things, a kilogram of explosives and dozens of grenades of various kinds, plus 29 flares of different sizes. “We were surprised by the number of weapons seized (during the raids),” police commander Benny Ablaya told Army Radio.
Several of the detainees are suspected of attacking a fan of rivals Hapoel Tel Aviv with an axe in 2015, seriously wounding him.
“These people are not fans … they come to shout racist chants. They threaten players and the management,” said former player and coach Eli Ohana. “La Familia is holding the club and hundreds of thousands of fans as hostages. They don’t care about anything. They don’t care if the club collapses or is punished.”
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