Israeli football fans clash over UAE investment

Israeli football fans clash over UAE investment
The UAE's investment in Israeli football team Beitar Jerusalem led to divisions among the team's notoriously anti-Arab fanbase.
2 min read
12 December, 2020
Beitar Jerusalem fans clash over the UAE's investment in the football team [Getty]

Rival supporters of top Israeli football team Beitar Jerusalem, notorious for its anti-Arab fan base, fought each other Friday over Emirati investment in the club, AFP journalists said.

A member of Abu Dhabi's royal family, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Nahyan, signed a $92 million "partnership agreement" on Monday with club owner Moshe Hogeg.

On Friday, on the sidelines of training by the players, supporters who backed the investment were attacked by a dozen supporters of the far-right "La Familia" fan group, who oppose the deal.

"Police arrested four people between the ages of 18 and 29 involved in public disturbances," police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said in a statement.

Beitar Jerusalem's fans have historically been considered anti-Muslim and anti-Arab, with the "La Familia" group known for its chants against the Prophet Mohammed.

The first division club is the only Israeli side never to have fielded an Arab player.

But it has been working to change its image in recent years, and in 2017 received an award for its fight against racism.

The investment in the club comes after Israel established ties with the United Arab Emirates, signing an accord along with Bahrain in Washington in September.

Since then, the UAE and Bahrain have signed a raft of deals with Israel, ranging from tourism to aviation and financial services.

Sheikh Hamad bought about half of Beitar in return for investing 300 million shekels ($92 million) in the club over the next decade, the club said in a statement on Monday.

"We are very excited about this decision and understand the tremendous opportunities Beitar Jerusalem can have with the money," said Maor Yifrah, a 26-year-old supporter, draped in a scarf from Dubai.

"We can take a new path which will bring us championships and trophies," Yifrah told AFP, adding that "all of Europe will hear from us."

However, "La Familia" supporters criticised the investment.

Some wrote angry comments on social media, including calling for Beitar Jerusalem's name to be changed to Beitar "Mohammed".

Agencies contributed to this report.

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