Emirati ruling family 'looking to invest in Israeli football'

Abu Dhabi ruling family member looking to buy 50% stake in 'racist' Israeli football club
2 min read
27 November, 2020
A member of Abu Dhabi's royal family is looking to buy a stake in a top-tier Israeli football team known for its racist and Islamophobic fans.
The Beitar Jerusalem soccer club is known for its racist fans [AFP/Getty]
A member of Abu Dhabi's ruling family is interested in buying a 50 percent stake of Israel's Beitar Jerusalem football club, Reuters reported on Friday, quoting the club's owner.

Beitar's owner Moshe Hogeg told Reuters that Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Nahyan is looking to buy a stake in the top-tier Israeli football team known for its racist and Islamophobic fans.

Hogeg received a non-binding letter of intent from Al Nahyan to buy a roughly 50 percent stake in the club, he said.

Reuters was unable to reach Al Nahyan for comment.

The news follows reports in September that Emirati businessmen were looking to invest in the top-tier Israeli football team.

The possible investments come after the UAE normalised ties with Israel in a US-brokered deal slammed by Palestinians as a "betrayal".

The deal was announced on August 13, with a group of Israeli officials landing in Abu Dhabi two weeks later to discuss cooperation in a variety of fields.

Beitar Jerusalem is the only club in the Israel Premier League to have never signed an Arab player and its fans have become infamous for their 'Death to Arabs' chant.

The most vocal supporters of Beitar Jerusalem are members of the violent far-right La Familia group, well known for their opposition to integrating Arabs into the club.

Beitar's current owner Hogeg, who acquired the club in 2018, told the BBC last year he aims to turn this around. But the club's infamous reputation persists.

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 Qur'an 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.

When the club signed two Muslim players from Chechnya in 2013, the move angered some fans, forcing the team to hire bodyguards to protect them.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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