Two Villareal players on Thursday refused to observe a minute of silence honoring the victims of the October 7 terrorist attack before their team’s Europa League match against Maccabi Haifa in Cyprus – the first appearance of an Israeli team since the murderous attack that claimed the lives of 1,400 people in Israel.
Spanish-Moroccan midfielder Ilias Akhomach and Algerian defender Aissa Mandi chose not to stand with their teammates on the pitch at the stadium in Larnaca to pay tribute to the victims of Hamas's brutal attack on Israeli border communities.
Blue and white balloons were prearranged in the shape of a Star of David in the eastern stands of the Larnaca stadium. During the minute of silence, the coach and technical staff of Maccabi Haifa held Israeli flags.
"Maccabi Haifa Football Club will forever remember the 1,400 victims and casualties of the terror attack and the war for home," read the club's statement two hours before the game.
During the match, fans of the Israeli soccer champions placed photos of hostages held by Hamas on all 30,000 seats of their home stadium, Sammy Ofer Stadium, to raise global awareness about the issue.