Israeli police deployed outside Jerusalem’s Teddy stadium to contain possible racist protests by football supporters on a visit by an Arab team ejected 45 people from the premises, a spokeswoman said.
Teddy stadium’s Beitar Jerusalem football club was hosting a match against the Arab Israeli team Benei Sakhnin.
The match drew 2-2 without any major incident, but police forced 25 fans of Beitar and 20 from Sakhnin to leave, the police spokeswoman said.
She added that a number of fans from each side had been arrested before the game for having a “provocative attitude.”
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP before the match started: “We put 600 to 700 uniformed and plain clothes policemen in place to avoid any disorder and restrain any racist protest.”
A fortnight ago, security was deployed for a match between Beitar and another Arab team, which ended without incident.
Sakhnin supporters arriving on buses for Sunday’s match were to be given police escort to Jerusalem, Rosenfeld said.
Interior Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch told military radio that racism “must be dealt with at the root. We have a policy of zero tolerance against these kinds of criminals.”
His comments came after Beitar’s offices were torched on Friday, after it signed up two Chechnyan Muslim players.
The attack took place hours after prosecutors on Thursday filed charges against four Beitar supporters accused of racist chants aimed at the Muslim players during a match and at a training session.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement that in light of the Jewish people’s historic suffering at the hands of racists, such behaviour by Israelis was “shameful.”
Beitar Jerusalem have a reputation of attracting a hard core of anti-Arab fans, with many of its supporters adamant the club should never sign an Arab player, even though Muslim footballers have played for Beitar in the past.