soccer team sawan 88.
(photo credit: )
Betar Jerusalem head coach Ton Caanen has told The Jerusalem Post he does not feel it is right to bring an Arab player to the club at the present time because of the strong feelings against such a move amongst the club's fanbase.
Rumors had been rife this weekend that Betar's billionaire Russian owner Arkadi Gaydamak had discussed bringing Bnei Sakhnin midfielder Abbas Suan to the Jerusalem team with Sakhnin chairman Mazen Ghnaim in an attempt to dispel Betar's racist reputation.
In an interview with the Post in April, Suan said he would be willing to move to Betar if it would help bring about peace and understanding between Arabs and Jews in Israel.
But speaking after the home defeat against Hapoel Petah Tikva Saturday night, Caanen said he has heard that Betar has a tradition of not employing Arab players.
Caanen said: "I think from seeing the emotions, the feelings and the history I am not someone who is in a position to change this.
"Who am I who has come from Holland to change this, to not respect this.
"I come from Holland and this is something from this side of the world. When the fans, all fans and all people, have a feeling about it then you must respect this."
Caanen, who was appointed head coach last month, said there had been no discussions over bringing Suan to the club.
The coach said: "Its just a rumor, I heard from [assistant coach] Guy Azuri he is not a bad player but with all resect I didn't see him."
On Friday a group of fans held a protest against Suan joining the club at the team's training session in Bayit Vegan. Outside Teddy Stadium on Saturday feelings among the fans about the possible move were clear.
Season ticket holder Ilan Zarbiv told the Post he would stop coming to watch Betar if the club signed Suan or any other Arab player.
"It would not be good," he said. "Betar has a tradition of not having any Arab players so there shouldn't be this situation where it is being discussed."
Another supporter Mickey Peretz echoed this view. He said: "I don't want any Arab players at Betar. If he comes I won't come."
The team's players were, however, remaining tight lipped about the situation. Defender Tomer Haliva told the Post: "I don't know if he is coming."
But Haliva added that he would have no problem playing in the same team as Suan. "I will play with anyone who comes to Betar," he said.
Despite reports in the Israeli press on Friday that Suan could be a Betar player as soon as this week, a spokesman for the Jerusalem team would not confirm that any moves had been made for the Israeli international.
Betar press spokesman Lior May said: "There is nothing happening with it now."