JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s president said Wednesday he would belatedly present the Beitar Jerusalem soccer team the State Cup at his official residence, after ecstatic fans disrupted the original ceremony and forced him off the field following the club’s victory.
Thousands of Beitar Jerusalem supporters charged the pitch after the team’s 3-0 win against Maccabi Netanya on Tuesday evening, before the trophy ceremony. Some participants burned the nets in the goals to take pieces as mementos and made off with medals intended for the players, according to Israeli public radio Kan.
Herzog, who was by the stage where Beitar players were to be given the trophy, was rushed off the field, surrounded by his security detail.
Herzog expressed dismay in a statement Wednesday, saying that fans “blew up the joyous occasion so that the trophy could not be awarded.”
Police said that 18 people were arrested on various charges related to entering the field.
It remained to be seen whether any disciplinary action would be taken by Israel’s Football Association against Beitar Jerusalem. The president’s office said that following a request from the association, Beitar Jerusalem’s players would be given the trophy at a ceremony at Herzog’s residence later Wednesday.
The theme of the ceremony will now be “condemning and battling violence in sports.”
Beitar Jerusalem’s hard-core fans have a history of racist chants and rowdy behavior, and the team is the only one in Israel’s professional leagues never to have signed an Arab player.