Emirati royal buys half of ‘anti-Arab’ Israeli football club

25th Dec 2020

Nadine Osman

Emirati royal Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Nahyan has purchased a stake of around 50 per cent in Israeli football club Beitar Jerusalem, a club notorious for ‘La Familia’ fans who chant racist, anti-Arab and Islamophobic slogans.

The deal was announced on December 7, for almost £69 million investment over a 10-year period, and was brokered by Naum Koen, a UAE-based Israeli businessman.
The first reports of a likely agreement appeared in September, days before the UAE, Bahrain and Israel signed an agreement normalising ties.

Beitar’s owner Moshe Hogeg, CEO Moni Brosh and Chair Eli Ohana travelled to Dubai on December 3 hoping to seal a deal before the end of the year. A new board of directors will be formed, and Hamad’s son, Mohammed bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Nayhan, will represent his father on the board.

“I am excited to be a partner in such a glorious club… I have heard a lot about the change taking place in the club and the way things are going, and I am happy to take part in that,” said Al Nahyan after signing the deal. Beitar fans expressed their anger and objection to the deal with the Emiratis.

Some fans sprayed racist and Islamophobic graffiti on the wall of their stadium, reading, ‘Mohammed is Dead’, ‘Death to Arabs’, ‘F**k Dubai’, and ‘You can’t buy us!!! $ Don’t f**k with us!’

Beitar Jerusalem is the only club in the Israeli Premier League to not have any players in its history from the Palestinian community in Israel, which makes up 20 percent of the country’s population.

The club has faced several penalties for its fans chanting racist slogans and its opposition to bringing Palestinian citizens of Israel into the team.

Its hardcore fan base, known as La Familia, is notoriously abusive towards opposing players, routinely taunting them with racist and anti-Arab chants. One chant goes, “Here we are, the most racist team in the country.”

Fans of the club have been seen flying giant banners at their home ground depicting a man carrying a gun and emblazoned with the words ‘WAR!’and ‘La Familia’. In October, Israeli Arab MP Ayman Odeh called on YouTube to remove a racist song insulting Prophet Muhammad, which was posted and sung by Beitar fans.

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