Match to be played on Tuesday in Haifa at 7pm
UEFA has turned down Ħamrun Spartans’ request to stage their UEFA Champions League first qualifying round, second leg tie against Maccabi Haifa in a neutral venue.
On Wednesday, the Spartans wrote an official letter to the European governing body of football in which they asked to move Tuesday’s return leg from the city of Haifa, Israel, to a neutral venue.
The Spartans made the request in the light of the crowd trouble that characterised last Tuesday’s first leg at the Centenary Stadium, which was won by the Israeli side 4-0, and were concerned about the safety of their contingent during next week’s stay in Israel.
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.
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 were also concerned by the political situation in Israel following clashes between Israelis and Palestinians not far off Haifa.
However, UEFA met with top officials from both Ħamrun Spartans and Maccabi Haifa on Thursday afternoon and the European governing body informed the Malta champions that they were not going to accept their request and the match will now be played as scheduled on Tuesday in Haifa, with kick off time set at 7pm.
The Ħamrun Spartans contingent will now leave the islands on Sunday afternoon to finalise their preparations for the return match where they will hope to put on a stronger showing after losing the first leg 4-0.
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