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Ħamrun Spartans file request to move second leg against Maccabi Haifa to neutral venue

Could consider not playing next week’s match if the request is not upheld

Ħamrun Spartans have written to UEFA to ask for next week’s first qualifying round, second leg tie against Maccabi Haifa will be moved out of Israel and played in a neutral venue.

The Malta champions have made the request in light of the crowd trouble that occurred during Tuesday’s first leg tie at the Centenary Stadium which was won by the Israel side 4-0.

Scottish referee Donald Robertson was forced to halt the match twice on Tuesday due to crowd disturbances, particularly from the Maccabi Haifa fans.

Midway through the first half the Maccabi Haifa fans threw flares onto the pitch of the Centenary Stadium forcing a short stoppage of play until the pitch was deemed fit for play.

Then things got even worse in the second half, as the Maccabi Haifa fans lit flares a second time, provoking the ire of the Ħamrun Spartans fans that were sitting a few metres away, and the latter threw bottles of water in the visitors’ section.

The Haifa fans responded by throwing two flares in the Spartans section, provoking a commotion between both sets of fans, with the police coming in to try and restore order.

Malta FA official Rodney Pisani pouring water on the pitch after flares were thrown by Maccabi Haifa fans. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

The UEFA Delegate immediately took to the pitch to stop the match and ordered the players off the pitch.

The match was halted for 25 minutes and resumed while both sets of fans calmed down.

The Spartans said that they made the request to UEFA in light of the incidents that happened at the Centenary Stadium on Tuesday, as well as the political situation in Israel following clashes between Israelis and Palestinians not far off Haifa.

“Ħamrun Spartans have sent a letter to UEFA, urging the latter to move the second leg match originally planned to be played in Haifa, to a neutral country,” Marcel Bonnici, the Ħamrun Spartans CEO, wrote in a statement.

“This move is being requested to safeguard all the Ħamrun Spartans contingent planning to go for the second leg match. Ħamrun’s request for the match to be moved is based on two main premises – yesterday’s incidents at Ta’ Qali and the political situation in Israel following clashes between Israelis and Palestinians not far off from Haifa.

“On this point, Ħamrun Spartans had already voiced their concerns through another letter dated 7th July 2023. Hamrun Spartans reiterated with UEFA that should their request to move the second leg to a neutral country is not upheld, they would consider not honouring the second leg to safeguard their contingent.”

Bonnici said that the Maltese club had sent continued warnings to respective authorities on the growing threat of possible clashes and incidents by the away fans during the first leg in Malta.

 “Right after the draws, there was a request to swap yesterday’s match in Malta with the match in Israel. But this proved to be useless since the requests were not upheld,” Bonnici wrote.

“In the said letter sent to UEFA, Ħamrun emphasised that the clashes and the throwing of the flares by the Maccabi fans were unprovoked. These clashes led to two persons being hospitalized whilst many others, including families, had to leave the stadium.”

The Spartans committee said in its letter that despite the repeated pledges by the security detail accompanying the Maccabi team, that everything will run smoothly, evidently this was not the case.

“Ħamrun Spartans appealed to UEFA for a reply right away in order to safeguard the entire contingent,” the statement concluded.

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