- A member of Abu Dhabi’s royal family is in advanced talks to buy Beitar Jerusalem.
- The sheikh is reportedly set to invest $100 million in the soccer team.
- The club has a long history of chanting anti-Arab abuse and targeting Muslim players.
- Beitar Jerusalem’s owners have travelled to Dubai to try and bring negotiations to a close.
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Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Nahyan, an Emirati royal, is set to buy a major stake in the Israeli soccer team Beitar Jerusalem. The team is infamous in Israel for having fans who have consistently targeted Muslim players and chanted anti-Arab abuse.
It is being reported that al Nahyan will purchase about a 50% stake in the club at a price of $100 million, according to Middle East Eye.
The club’s owner, Moshe Hogeg, traveled with Beit Jerusalem’s senior executives on Thursday to try and close the deal. Naum Koen, an Israeli businessman based in the United Arab Emirates, is responsible for brokering it.
—Beitar Jerusalem FC (@fcbeitar) December 3, 2020
Talks of a deal were first reported by Bloomberg in September. This was shortly before an agreement was signed in Washington which normalized ties between the UAE and Israel.
Hogeg is hoping to “close matters” during the trip to Dubai, he told Israeli website Walla.
In a statement on the club’s website, Hogeg confirmed that negotiations are going well and “seem to be progressing.”
He said: “I hope there will be something to announce shortly.”
In the statement, Hogeg also addressed the club’s reputation for having fans who hold an anti-Arab sentiment. He insisted that racist fans are only a “minority.”
He also added: “We do not do racism. Not in the Holy City and certainly not on my watch.”
The club’s controversial history might suggest otherwise.
Beitar Jerusalem is the only club in the Israeli Premier League to have never signed an Arab player.
In 2012, a violent group of fans – referred to as ‘La Familia’ – flooded into a mall in Jerusalem and chanted “death to Arabs.” That slogan has become commonplace at soccer games since then.
A year later, fans protested the signing of two Chechen Muslim players. Shortly after Zaur Sadayev and Dzhabrail Kadiyev were introduced into the team, members of La Familia set fire to one of the club’s offices.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who supports the club, condemned the acts as “racist.”
As recently as last year, CNN reported that Beitar Jerusalem fans demanded that Ali Mohamed – a Christian player from Niger – change his name to sound less Muslim.
In response, Hogeg threatened to sue the fans responsible for these demands.