Israeli football officials have hinted that anti-Semitism may be at play after the entire Maccabi Petah Tikva youth football team fell victim to food poisoning over the weekend. The food poisoning was so severe that all of the players ended up in hospital in Bulgaria.
According to Sport 5, an Israeli TV channel, members of the team were staying at their hotel in Sofia and began complaining of stomach aches and diarrhoea, while others began vomiting and even fainting.
After spending time in hospital some of the players have now been released, while others still require treatment. The team is in Bulgaria to take part in a training camp. After the incident happened, the team’s coaches bought food from other eateries outside the hotel to make sure they don’t fall victim to additional cases of food poisoning.
“We have the sense that somebody [at the hotel] was bothered by the fact that the players sang in Hebrew on Friday,” Avi Luzon, a Maccabi Petah Tikva official, told Sport 5.
“We asked the Bulgarian soccer federation to investigate this matter urgently,” Luzon said.
“One after the other, the players fell victim and were rushed to the emergency room. From what I gathered, this was really scary. I hope that tomorrow morning they will be able to get on a plane back to Israel so that they can be tested further.”
“We cannot just sit idly by and accept this,” he said. “I will ask for a thorough investigation because this facility belonged to the Bulgarian federation.”
This latest incident comes less than one month after a different anti-Semitic incident involving an Israeli football team in the same Bulgarian town.
In early August, Israeli team FC Ashdod played Bulgarian team, CSKA Sofia, in a friendly. After a hard tackle by an Ashdod player, supporters of CSKA stormed the pitch. The Bulgarian fans threw bottles at the Israeli players, one of whom was hit in the face, and chased them out of the stadium. The Ashdod players had to escorted back to their hotel by police. The video can be seen here.
“From the start of the match they began throwing bottles at us and were singing anti-Semitic songs against Israel,” said Ashdod striker Michael Ohana. “We prayed that we would be able to leave the stadium safely. You don’t think about it when it happens, but there is no doubt that our lives were in real danger at that moment.”
The fact that both of these incidents happened in the same town and less than one month apart, coupled with the fact the food poisoning was so severe should raise some serious questions.
For now we can only pray for the recovery of the young players and hope the authorities look into these incidents and, if needed, take action.