Italian football team AS Roma defeated the English Premier League Tottenham Hotspurs in Haifa on Saturday, while some of the sport’s biggest stars took a rare trip to Israel this weekend.
AS Roma defeated Spurs 1-0 in a match that was interrupted by numerous ‘water breaks’ for the players at Sammy Ofer Stadium in the Israeli coastal town.
Jose Mourinho’s Roma faced the British side who sacked him several times last year. The match was also briefly interrupted to allow a fan to enter the field and take a selfie with the players.
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Roger Ibanez headed to the Italian side in 29 minutes to secure the win, although Tottenham held the ball for the entire game.
Ten minutes later, Tottenham’s Harry Kane scored a brilliant goal, but it was flagged for offside. By the end of the match, Kane appeared to have been knocked down, but the referee decided not to award the penalty.
About 24,000 fans attended this pre-season friendly. Both teams have traditionally attracted large Jewish supporters.
Before the match, Roma visited the Western Wall in Jerusalem, and several of their players took the time to pray and leave a note there.
North London club Tottenham has long been associated with its Jewish supporters, so much so that its fans – both Jewish and Gentile – have come to adopt the pejorative label ‘Yid’ thrown at them by their rivals, and are called “the Yids” or “the army of the Yids”. However, earlier this year, Tottenham management said they no longer wanted fans to use that name or slogan.
Meanwhile, Roma fans have been abused by rivals Lazio, who have often hurled Holocaust-related anti-Semitic insults at them, most recently images of Anne Frank in a Roma sweater and slogans such as “Roma fans are Jews.”
Major football teams regularly travel abroad for pre-season matches, both to train against top-level opponents, but also to increase their commercial appeal by connecting with fans far away. However, matches in Israel remain rare.
Lionel Messi and Neymar, two of the biggest stars in sports, trained at Bloomfield Stadium in Tel Aviv on Saturday in preparation for Sunday’s game.
Footage released by their team Paris Saint-Germain shows a handful of supporters cheering the team on during training.
Paris Saint-Germain will take on Nantes in this match, which starts at 9 p.m. About 30,000 spectators are expected.
This is Israel’s second year hosting the Trophée des champions of Supercoupe de France, after billionaire Sylvan Adams brought the season’s first edition to the Hebrew state last year.
On Saturday, PSG met with the Israeli non-profit organization Save A Child’s Heart, a humanitarian group that performs heart surgery on children around the world. Team members met children involved with the group, signed autographs and posed for photos.
The team also met Sylvan Adams at the event, who described Israel to the team as a safe and tolerant country.
Messi last traveled to Israel in 2019 with the Argentina national team for an exhibition game against Uruguay, but missed the Champions Trophy match last year, as did Brazil’s Neymar. Messi has also visited Israel before with his former club FC Barcelona.
As the Argentine and Brazilian take to the field on Sunday, Israeli fans will not get a glimpse of the world’s most expensive player, Kylian Mbappe, who has been suspended for receiving too many yellow cards at the end of last season.
PSG said they were taking this match very seriously as they lost to Lille (1-0) last year against all odds.