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Betar owner Gaydamak will not yield to racist fans
By ALLON SINAI
01/27/2013
MKs and soccer team owner condemn racism ignited by decision to bring Muslim players to team.
 
Betar Jerusalem owner Arkadi Gaydamak vowed not to yield to the racist minority of his club’s supporters on Sunday as the sports world and senior ministers alike condemned the anti-Muslim bigotry displayed by fans at Teddy Stadium during Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Bnei Yehuda.

The Betar supporters reacted angrily to Gaydamak’s announcement that the club plans to sign Muslims Dzhabrail Kadiyev and Zaur Sadayev from Chechen club Terek Grozny, raising banners reading: “Betar [will be] pure forever” and “70 years of values,” with numerous fans also voicing their opposition to Muslim players joining the club by singing anti-Arab chants.

A Muslim player, Nigerian defender Ibrahim Nadalla, was on the team briefly in 2005 but left after experiencing consistent hostility from its supporters.

Gaydamak told Israeli Army Radio the “small group of so-called supporters” of Betar “do not represent the general opinion of the Israeli public, and they should not be allowed to win.”

Betar will stand trial for the conduct of its fans at the Israel Football Association’s disciplinary court on Tuesday, hours before it hosts Maccabi Umm al-Fahm in the last 32 of the State Cup.

Umm al-Fahm of the National League plans to bring 2,500 fans to the potentially volatile showdown at Teddy and coach Samir Issa promised his players would leave the pitch should Betar fans deride Muhammad.

Police at the match on Saturday arrested three supporters on suspicion of incitement, with two of them being banned on Sunday from entering stadiums until the end of the 2013/14 season.

“I was shocked by the racism displayed in the Betar Jerusalem stands yesterday against having Muslim or Arab players on the team,” Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon said on Sunday.

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, who was once the chairman of Betar, blasted those who want to keep the team “purely Jewish.” Speaking at an International Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony, Rivlin called for the Israel Football Association not to stand silent in light of recent events.

“Think what would happen if teams in England or Germany would decide that Jews cannot play for them.

Israelis would censure them,” he stated. “These calls have continued for a decade, and they teach us that it is not a small, fringe group. We must fight them, uproot them from among us and do justice with anyone who incites against partnership between all who live in this land.”

Lahav Harkov and Reuters contributed to this report.
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