About 250 people were injured in Amman on Friday in clashes between fans after Jordan’s largest Palestinian soccer team beat a rival local team, hospital staff said.
Matches between the rival teams have a long history of violence, mirroring the divisions between the country’s majority Palestinians and native Jordanians, mostly tribes who inhabited the East Bank of the Jordan River before the influx of Palestinians after the creation of Israel in 1948.
Witnesses said that the violence erupted after the Palestinian Wihdat team won a crucial match 1-0 against the Jordanian Faisali team to qualify them for the domestic league.
Riot police fired teargas and sealed off the stadium’s exits, triggering a stampede in which a large metal fence separating the crowds from the playing field collapsed, witnesses said.
“What we saw today was a massacre led by the gendarme forces who acted without wisdom. If they had a sense of national duty they would have protected these crowds because this is their duty and there was no rival crowd in the stadium. They instigated the trouble,” Wihdat president Tareq Khoury told reporters.
Despite making up a majority in the country, Jordanians of Palestinian origin are marginalized in the government and barred from entry into the army and security forces.
Jordanian Deputy Prime Minister and official spokesman Ayman Safadi told the state news agency Petra the authorities intervened to restore order after bottle throwing from inside the stadium.
He said 150 people, including 25 police officers, were taken to hospital with injuries.
Witnesses blamed the police for preventing the Wihdat team fans from leaving the stadium as angry Faisali supporters threw stones at them from outside after their team lost.
Many Wihdat supporters say the police are biased against them and reacted to their victory over Faisali, a soccer team that is viewed as a fertile ground for Jordanian nationalists.