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Three Betar fans arrested outside team practice
By MELANIE LIDMAN
02/01/2013
Dozens of hardcore fans protest outside Betar's practice over team's decision to recruit 2 Muslim players from Chechnya.
 
Dozens of Betar Jerusalem fans protested outside the soccer club’s practice session in the capital on Friday over the team’s recent decision to recruit two Muslim players from Chechnya.

Police arrested three of the fans outside the team’s practice facility in the Bayit Vegan neighborhood.

One fan threw rocks at the players’ cars, another climbed a fence and attacked a guard, and a third tried to break into the car of Betar chairman Itzik Kornfein, police said.

Betar fans are furious over owner Arkadi Gaydamak’s announcement that the club has signed two Muslim players, Dzhabrail Kadiyev and Zaur Sadayev, from the Chechnyan team Terek Grozny. During the January 26 game against Bnei Yehuda, fans raised an enormous banner that read “Betar pure forever” and sang anti-Arab chants.

Police have arrested more than a dozen people involved in the incident with the banner.

The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court barred the entrance of 50 Betar fans to the match against Umm el- Fahm on Tuesday. In addition to those barred from Tuesday’s game, all of the fans arrested have been banned from attending soccer games for the rest of the season and ordered to pay a fine of at least NIS 1,000.

“I believe in the strength of the players and the strength of our club,” Kornfein told Jerusalem Radio on Friday.

“This is the right thing to do and I’m calling on the police and the courts to do what they need to do and punish those who break the law.

“The Chechen players toured Jerusalem on Thursday and received a warm welcome from the residents. I can promise that they are here to stay.”

President Shimon Peres sent a sharply worded letter to the Israel Football Association before Tuesday’s match.

Peres appealed to the IFA and all other relevant authorities to do their utmost to quell all expressions and manifestations of racism inside and outside soccer stadiums.

The anti-Muslim bigotry was met by wide-scale condemnation in Israel and abroad. Israel Football Association chairman Avi Luzon warned that the club could be shut down by soccer’s governing bodies, FIFA and the UEFA, if the racism in the stands continues.

Allon Sinai and Uriel Sturm contributed to this report.
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