Israeli champions to face Celtic in crucial Champions League playoff


Israeli league winners Hapoel Beersheva will play Scottish Premiership winners Celtic for a place in the Champions League group stage.

The Israeli team, which picked up its first championship trophy for 40 years last season, will travel to Glasgow on August 16 or 17 for the first of two matches.

The return leg at Beersheva’s Turner Stadium, which opened a year ago, will be played on August 23 or 24.

Hapoel have never reached the Champions League group stage, but have beaten Moldovan champions Sheriff Tiraspol and Greek league winners Olympiacos to get to this last qualifying round.

The team from central Israel would be awarded just over £10 million for making the group stage. They would be the seventh club from the country to compete in the Champions League.

In the Europa League, Beitar Jerusalem face St. Etienne while Maccabi Tel Aviv take on Hajduk Split.

There is strong support for Palestinian nationalism among Celtic fans, and the presence at the club of Nir Bitton, an Israeli player, has led to antisemitic comments.

One supporter, Daniel Yahia, a student at Edinburgh University, described Bitton on Facebook as "subhuman" and a "filthy Zionist rat".

He wrote: “We are a club open to all, that cannot be disputed, but by all, we mean humans, of different races, creeds and religions. Zionists are subhuman, and Nir Bitton is a filthy Zionist rat.”

The post was subsequently deleted, but not before one Facebook friend replied saying “gas him, pardon the pun”, to which Yahia replied “Be too good for him mate”.

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