Fans of Israel’s premier soccer club, Beitar Jerusalem, want nothing to do with Muslim players.
There’s just one big problem.
Midfielder Dzhabrail Kadiev, and striker Zaur Sadayev, are two Muslim players formerly of the Chechnyan Russian team Terek Grozny, touching down in Jerusalem in a couple of days.
During one of its premier league matches on Saturday, Beitar supporters’ feelings were on display when more than a few fans lifted up a banner in response to the news of Kadiyev and Sadayev, both who are Muslim, were set to join the team.
“Beitar will always remain pure,” read black Hebrew letters on a yellow banner held up by fans during the match.
Three Beitar supporters were arrested on suspicion of incitement charges, and were fit to stand trial the next day.
Beitar has quite a history when it comes to unruly fans.
In March of 2012, 16 Beitar fans were taken into custody and six were suspended from attending games, after hundreds of fans chanted anti-Arab slogans and had assaulted Arab workers at a mall in Jerusalem following the game.
Ibrahim Nadalla was a Nigerian defender on the team back in 2005. His tenure at Beitar was short-lived due to hostility he faced from fans.
Rifat Turk was the first Arab soccer player to wear an Israeli national jersey, and he described the Beitar fans’ racism as “wanton.”
Arkady Gaydamak, owner of Beitar, has defended his choice to bring the Chechnyan Muslims on board, and has gone on to say the hostile fans of Beitar, “do not represent the general opinion of the Israeli public, and they should not be allowed to win,” Gaydamak said to Israel Army Radio.
Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon, who was in attendance during the recent game, was appalled by the blatant prejudice Beitar fans were exhibiting.
“I was shocked by the racism displayed in the Beitar Jerusalem stands yesterday against having Muslim or Arab players on the team," said Yaalon.
Beitar could possibly obtain a spot next year in European club play, if they can maintain their fourth place standing in the Premier League.
Coach Eli Cohen has said it best regarding the addition of his two new players.
“I was asked which three players I would like to join Beitar, and I named them. Grozny has players from several countries, including Russian national team players. I didn’t check the religion of each player. Arcadi asked me to name which players impressed me professionally, and that’s what I did.
“The time has come to not disqualify a Muslim at Beitar, when there are a billion Muslims in the world,” the coach added. “I chose a player according to his talent, not according to his identity card.”
While high-standing organization members of Beitar show their fierce opposition to the racism, fans have plans to continue the jeers at Beitar’s next game against Maccabi Uhm al-Fahm for the State Cup.