Assaulted Israeli Football Team Changes Match Venue Amid Safety Concerns

Maccabi Haifa Israeli soccer game moved
A training session of Israel's soccer club Maccabi Haifa in the Austrian village of Leogang Dominic Ebenbichler/Reuters

Israeli football club Maccabi Haifa has announced a change of venue for its next pre-season match amidst security concerns, after a group of pro-Palestinian protesters rushed the pitch and attacked players during their last friendly with Lille on Wednesday .

Video footage shows the pitch invaders waving Palestinian flags and clashing with players Dekel Keinan and Idan Vered.

A statement on the Maccabi Haifa website condemned the attack on the club's players, referring to the protesters as Turkish immigrants and claimed they cursed and swore at players without provocation, later throwing stones at them. "Maccabi Haifa is a club that stands for co-existence, tolerance and no violence," it said.

Maccabi Haifa's next game, against German Bundesliga team Paderborn was scheduled to be played tomorrow in the Austrian town of Kirchbichl. It will now go ahead with a change of location amidst growing safety concerns. The two teams will face off at Leogang instead.

The game's organizers claim they "do not understand" why authorities felt the initial venue in Kirchbichl was unsafe, reports local newspaper Salzburger Nastricht.

"We are a 5,000 strong community and we do not even have our own police force in place," vice-mayor of Kirchbichl Wilfried Ellinger told Austrian paper Wirtshafts Blatt.

The incident during Maccabi Haifa's friendly with Lille on Wednesday came days after anti-semitic violence had broken out during protests in response to Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip, with the Jewish Community Security Trust in the UK telling Newsweek they were on high alert.

Meanwhile the International Tennis Federation is considering moving the venue of Israel's Davis Cup elimination round match with Argentina next month away from Tel Aviv, due to ongoing rocket attacks from Gaza, the Times of Israel reported.