Italian soccer team AS Roma beat English Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur in Haifa on Saturday, as some of the sport’s biggest stars made a rare trip to Israel over the weekend.
Roma beat Spurs 1-0 in a game interrupted by multiple water breaks for players at the sweltering Sammy Ofer Stadium in the Israeli coastal town.
Tempers flared several times when Jose Mourinho’s Roma faced the British side who sacked him last year, in a game that was also briefly interrupted for a pitch invasion by a fan who tried to take a selfie with the players.
Roger Ibanez scored a header for the Italian side after 29 minutes for the win, although Tottenham led in possession throughout the game.
Ten minutes later, Tottenham’s Harry Kane found the back of the net, but the offside flag was up.
Towards the end of the match, Kane appeared to have been taken down in the box but the referee decided not to award a penalty.
Around 24,000 fans attended the pre-season friendly.
Prior to the match, Roma took time out of training to visit the Western Wall in Jerusalem, with several of their stars taking time to pray and lay a note at the holy site.
Tottenham, the north London club, has long been associated with its Jewish supporters as its fans – both Jewish and non-Jewish – eventually adopted the insulting epithet Yid thrown around by their rivals, and became known as the “Yids” and the “Yugoslav army”. However, earlier this year Tottenham management said they no longer wanted fans to use the name or chant.
Meanwhile, Roma fans have faced abuse from cross-town rivals Lazio, who have frequently directed anti-Semitic and Holocaust-related abuse against Roma fans, more recently publish images of Anne Frank in a Roma jersey alongside slogans such as “Roma fans are Jews”.
Top soccer teams regularly travel overseas for pre-season matches, both to train against top opponents, but also to boost their commercial appeal by connecting with fans far and wide. However, games in Israel are rare.
Also on Saturday, Lionel Messi and Neymar, two of the biggest stars in the world of sport, trained at the Bloomfield stadium in Tel Aviv ahead of a game on Sunday.
Images posted by their team, France’s Paris Saint-Germain showed a handful of fans cheering on the team during the training session
Paris Saint-Germain, or PSG, will take on Nantes in the match, which kicks off at 9 p.m. Around 30,000 spectators are expected.
It is the second year that Israel has hosted the Trophée des Champions, or the French Super Cup, after the season opener was brought to the Jewish state last year by billionaire Sylvan Adams.
PSG on Saturday met the Israeli non-profit organization Save A Child’s Heart, a humanitarian group that performs heart operations on children around the world. Team members met children involved in the group, signing autographs and posing 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 game last year, as did Brazil’s Neymar. Messi also once traveled to Israel with his former club team Barcelona.
With the Argentinian and the Brazilian on the pitch on Sunday, Israeli fans will be deprived of a glimpse of the current most expensive player in the world, Kylian Mbappé, suspended for picking up too many yellow cards at the end of the season last.
PSG said they would take the game seriously after losing last year’s game in a surprise 1-0 loss to Lille.