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Israel club wins league clincher reprieve

Israeli football club Beitar Jerusalem, infamous for its ultra-nationalist fans, won a reprieve on Wednesday from a crucial league match forfeit this month just four minutes from time.

The Israeli Football Association ordered that the club, supported by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, be allowed to replay against Maccabi Herzliya, which was called off after thousands of fans invaded the pitch on April 13 in premature celebration of their team’s winning of the league.

The replay is set for May 20.

Beitar, with a 12 point lead over second seeded Maccabi Netanya, needs one more win to clinch its second consecutive league championship.

Owned by Israeli-Russian billionaire Arcady Gaydamak, Beitar has had repeated run-ins with the football authorities.

In November, the association banned Beitar fans from two home matches after they booed through a minute’s silence in memory of assassinated prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Some fans even sang songs praising Rabin’s murder by Yigal Amir, a Jewish extremist who was jailed for life after he shot the Nobel peace laureate three times in the back following a Tel Aviv peace rally on November 4, 1995.

The Israeli premier is a prominent supporter of Beitar but has spoken out against the behaviour of his fellow fans, who have been involved in repeated disturbances with followers of Israeli Arab clubs over the years.

Wed 30 April, 2008
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