Security concerns relocate Israeli game

Security concerns relocate Israeli game
Photo: APA (epa)
A soccer match to be played in Austria on Saturday by Maccabi Haifa and German club SC Paderborn had to be moved to a new venue due to security concerns after a violent anti-Israel protest disrupted the Israeli team's last game in Bischofshofen in Salzburg province.

The match then took place in the town of Leogang in Salzburg province, where Maccabi Haifa's training camp is located, after the town of Kirchbichl, about 60 kilometres away in Tyrol province, refused to host the game for security reasons. Maccabi won 2:1 against the German team which gained promotion to the German Bundesliga last season.

Protesters against Israel's military offensive in Gaza had invaded the pitch and attacked Maccabi Haifa players at a friendly game against Lille on Wednesday in Bischofshofen, causing play to be abandoned. Around 20 youths of Turkish origin ran onto the pitch with Palestinian flags and anti-Israeli placards, police said.

Photo: Twitter @jj34

Hannes Empl, head of the SLFC organisation that hosts soccer training camps in the Salzburg region, said on Friday the players were slightly tense but ready for the match to go ahead as normal. "They've been coming here to train for ten years and they'll be coming back next year," he told Reuters by telephone, adding that the team would be leaving on Sunday.

In Austria the soccer protest was sharply condemned by politicians from all sides as well as by the leader of the Jewish community in Vienna. "There can be zero tolerance in Austria of violence motivated by religion or anti-Semitism," said Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz of the conservative People's Party (ÖVP).

Political scientist Thomas Schmidinger said the protest was a symptom of a recent Islamicised form of anti-Semitism that has been given new life by the Gaza conflict. "One can combine the old-fashioned anti-Semitism wonderfully with the new anti-Semitism," said Schmidinger, a Middle East specialist at Vienna University.

But he said the area where the violent protest took place had known problems with right-wing Turkish youths and was one of a few such pockets in Austria, and urged that the official reaction be proportionate. "It seems to me that it was not a big concerted action but probably down to local youths," he said. "I find it a bit overdone that the game has been cancelled. I think it's the wrong signal to react like that."


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