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Emirati royal buys 50 percent stake in Israel's Beitar Jerusalem Football Club

The Emirati businessman bought 50% of Beitar Jerusalem football club [Getty]

Date of publication: 7 December, 2020

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Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Nahyan, an Emirati royal businessman, will invest millions in the 'racist' club over the next decade.

A member of the UAE's ruling family and Abu Dhabi businessman Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Nahyan has purchased a 50 percent stake of Israeli Beitar Jerusalem, the football club announced on Monday.

In an announcement posted to its website, one of Israel's leading football clubs, Beitar Jerusalem, said the purchase also included a commitment to invest over 300 million shekels (around $92 million) in the club over the next decade.

The money invested in the club will go towards infrastructure, youth and the acquisition of potential players for development, according to the announcement.

It said it will form a new board of directors which will also include the sheikh's son, Muhammad bin Hamed bin Khalifa.

The business deal was officially announced just months after the two countries signed a normalisation agreement.

The top-tier Israeli football team is notorious for its racist and Islamophobic fans.

Last week, after reports leaked the planned sale, racist anti-Arab graffiti was spray-painted on the walls of the club's stadium.

The club responded to the incident saying it served as "the strongest proof of the necessity of partnership with the  Muslims and the Arab world in the war against racism".

Yair Wallach, a senior lecturer in Israeli Studies at SOAS University of London said the new deal is "a very interesting experiment".

"Beitar ultras have famously refused for years for the team to sign Muslim, let alone Arab, players, now they are owned by a Muslim Arab. Can these contradictions be reconciled through the UAE-Netanyahu alliance? I'm not so sure," Wallach wrote.

In 2016, a clip of Beitar Jerusalem fans chanting "Muhammad is dead, Muhammad is dead" was broadcast of Israeli television, the Arabic news website Arabi 21 reported.

Three years earlier, fans of the Israeli team burned the Quran and insulted the Prophet Muhammad after a match with the Israeli Arab team Bnei Sakhnin ended in a goalless draw, according to the news site.

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