About a hundred radicals gathered yesterday morning at the Bayit Vagan training ground, the compound of the neighborhood of the same name located in the southwest of Jerusalem and home to the Beitar, one of the most popular clubs in the “eternal” capital of Israel. Hooded, with tattoos, dressed in rigorous black and wrapped in stars of David and “menorahs”, the recognizable Jewish candelabrum and symbol that also shapes the team’s crest, they provoked altercations at the entrance as the players of their team trained, which which forced the session to stop. In the middle of the mess they hung a banner where you could read: “84 years of history cannot be bought with money”. Even Monshe Hogeg, owner of the club, was forced to enter the premises under strong escort.
The origin of this brawl is due to the fact that half of the shares of the Israeli club have just been bought by Hamed bin Khalifa al Nahyan, a member of the royal family of United Arab Emirates. An inconceivable sale for the most radical faction of the Beitar, a team that, since its foundation, has been associated with the Israeli nationalist movement, although, since Hogeg’s arrival, the entity’s website warns of the launch of a “zero tolerance” policy against racists and anti-Arabs.
Traditionally, Hapoel in Tel Aviv has been the Jerusalem team that brought together fans of the political left and the Beitar, since its foundation in 1936, to those on the right already part of the Zionist movement. In the beginning, even some of its players were related to Etzel, a group linked to attacks.
Benjamin Netanyahu, current prime minister of Israel, is one of the most recognized Beitar fans, whose leaders changed the club’s name in 2018, although not officially, to change its name to Beitar Trump Jerusalem. A gesture of gratitude to the President of the United States for declaring his city the capital of Israel.
After heavy investment in 2005 from Russian oil companies, ownership of the equipment passed to Hogeg two years ago. This young billionaire related to technology companies starred last Monday in the image that the radicals on his team would never have suspected. The manager posed in Dubai with Al Nahyan after selling him half of the club’s shares. «Muslims and Jews can cooperate and do wonderful things together, “said the new shareholder after signing. An agreement that is surprising because Beitar is so far the only team in Israel that has never had an Arab player in its ranks.
In fact, the club in 2013 signed two Chechens who professed the Muslim religion and some radicals, as a protest, burned part of their own team’s facilities. In 2007, they booed the minute of silence on the anniversary of the death of Israeli military and politician Isaac Rabin, and even they chanted the name of the ultranationalist who murdered him to bullets. They also made life miserable for Ndala Ibrahim, a Nigerian player, also a Muslim, who decided to leave Beitar after just four games. The same fate as Chechen striker Zaur Sadayev, who after scoring saw part of the stands leave the field.
Racist acts with a common name and surname: «The Family». Under this name, the ultras of the team, associated with extreme right movements and subscribers to Islamophobia, are brought together. Several members of this dangerous group have even been seen dissolving demonstrations against Netanyahu. “‘The Family’, you are the medicine against those anarchists,” wrote a Facebook account associated with the Likud party. Yesterday several ultras traveled to the Bayit Vagan training camp, where Hogeg went, to reproach him for a decision that they do not forgive him.
However, beyond the discontent it has produced in this radical sector of the fans, the agreement, at least from the outside, has been well received. «I am sure that the majority of Beitar fans support this decision. Do not give importance to this small group, which criticizes you and makes noise. These are people who only dedicate themselves to stain the club name“Said the former mayor of Jerusalem and former prime minister of Israel, Ehud Olmert, also a confessed fan of the Jerusalem team.
Hogeg, who had already confronted “The Family” with personal complaints and even threatening fines of up to one million euros to fans promoting racism, he called the agreement “historic.” Hamed, who claimed to have no previous experience in the sports management of a football team, will become vice president of Beitar and direct its “professional” field.