Soccer-Israeli FA punishes Beitar over 'unsporting' Rabin chants

JERUSALEM Thu Nov 8, 2007 2:33pm GMT

JERUSALEM Nov 8 (Reuters) - Israeli league leaders Beitar Jerusalem were ordered on Thursday to play two home matches behind closed doors after some of its fans cheered in support of the 1995 assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

An Israel Football Association (IFA) disciplinary panel ruled that the behaviour of hundreds of Beitar supporters at a Nov. 4 Premier League fixture had been "unsporting".

The fans's behaviour, before the start of the match against Maccabi Haifa on the 12th anniversary of Rabin's assassination by a right-wing Jew opposed to his peace moves with the Palestinians, caused national outrage.

Hundreds of the Jerusalem club's supporters cheered loudly when the stadium announcer asked for a moment's silence in commemmoration of Rabin.

Beitar Jerusalem has long been identified with Israel's political right-wing. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, a long-time Beitar fan, publicly condemned the crowd's action.

Beitar is Israel's richest club following its takeover by Russian-born billionaire Arkady Gaydamak in 2005.

Beitar officials said they would appeal the punishment. (Writing by Ori Lewis; Editing by Miles Evans)