Football fans fight to keep club all-Jewish as Jerusalem's 'Beitar' introduces Muslim players

Published January 31st, 2013 - 10:09 GMT

Fans of Jerusalem football club Beitar, which is the last of Jewish-only football teams in Israel, are up in arms against the signing of two new Muslim players from Chechnya in the team.

The Chechen players, Dzhabrail Kadiyev and Zaur Sadaev, were scheduled to fly to Israel on Jan. 30 after a spell of discussions in Moscow, and were signed by club's unfathomable Russian owner, Arkady Gaydamak,

Both the players arrived in Jerusalem on Thursday to join the country's most nationalist football team, the Christian Science Monitor reports.

When it was revealed this weekend that the controversial team owner had recruited the two Muslim players, fans unfolded a banner, 'Beitar pure forever', just as the world was promoting anti-racism efforts on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the paper reported.

According to veteran Israeli diplomat Alon Liel, who founded a number of Jewish-Arab sports programs, including a semi-professional soccer team, if Beitar ends up keeping the Chechen players despite their old opposition to having Muslim players on the team that could actually end up being a catalyst for a positive societal change.

Nine years ago, Beitar sacked a Nigerian player when fans discovered he was a Muslim, just like the Arabs they had long blocked from joining the team.

That encouraged Liel to found the Abu Ghosh-Mevasseret soccer team that was split 50-50 between Jews and Arabs, not only on the playing field but also in the boardroom.

Some of Beitar's most illustrious supporters, including the mayor of Jerusalem, Speaker of the Knesset Reuven Rivlin, and former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert have all spoken out against the Beitar fans' racism. (ANI)

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