Israeli soccer club's fans object to adding Muslim players

Sun Jan 27, 2013 9:54am EST
 

By Ori Lewis

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - An Israeli soccer club notorious for the anti-Arab chants of its fans plans to recruit two Muslim players, fuelling protests in the stands that a senior cabinet minister condemned as shocking and racist.

At a Premier League game on Saturday, Beitar Jerusalem supporters held a banner reading "Beitar will always remain pure". Other signs hoisted by fans also protested against its owner's intention to have two Muslim Chechen players join.

The Beitar club is a bastion of Israel's political right-wing and the only leading soccer team in the country never to have signed an Arab player because of fan pressure.

A Muslim player, Nigerian defender Ibrahim Nadalla, was on the team briefly in 2005 but left after experiencing consistent hostility from its supporters.

"I was shocked by the racism displayed in the Beitar Jerusalem stands yesterday against having Muslim or Arab players on the team," Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon said on Sunday.

"We cannot ignore these displays of racism which not long ago were directed - and are still being directed - towards the Jewish people," he wrote on Twitter.

Police at the match arrested three supporters on suspicion of incitement, and they were due to appear in court later on Sunday, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

The Israel Football Association (IFA) said it would take disciplinary action against the club. In a ruling against the team a year ago, an IFA court said that Beitar Jerusalem "had not made an honest effort to combat fans' racist chants".   Continued...

 
Supporters of Beitar Jerusalem soccer club hold a banner reading "Beitar will always remain pure" during a Premier League match in Jerusalem January 26, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer