New season, same old problems at Beitar

Beitar Jerusalem’s first press conference of the 2013/14 season was about to come to an uneventful ending, but new owner Eli Tabib just couldn’t help himself from adding one last parting note.

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August 1, 2013 01:02
3 minute read.
ELI TABIB

ELI TABIB 370. (photo credit: Adi Avishai)

 
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Beitar Jerusalem’s first press conference of the 2013/14 season was about to come to an uneventful ending, but new owner Eli Tabib just couldn’t help himself from adding one last parting note.

After a tumultuous summer during which Tabib took over the club, bringing to an end Arkadi Gaydamak’s eight years at the helm, the owner, his representative at the club, Haim Revivo, and coach Eli Cohen all joined Nir Barkat in the mayor’s office in Jerusalem on Wednesday to elaborate on their plans for the struggling club.

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However, it was Tabib who stole the show when he asked to make one last comment at the end of the press conference.

“We are not against having Arab players at Beitar. We are against racism,” said Tabib, before launching an attack at his former club Hapoel Tel Aviv.

“No one talks about what happened at Hapoel Tel Aviv. There is racism there as well. I don’t remember anyone saying anything about racism when they raised banners saying that Hapoel doesn’t represent Israel.”

Tabib was chased out of Hapoel by the team’s fans, ultimately selling his ownership stake to former Member of Knesset Haim Ramon last summer after incessant protests by supporters outside his home and at the side’s matches.

Beitar’s performance on the pitch has been overshadowed since the start of the year by the protests of a racist group of fans who objected to the signing of Chechen Muslims Dzhabrail Kadiyev and Zaur Sadayev.



Kadiyev and Sadayev are long gone, but there seems to be no end in sight to the trouble caused by the bigoted fans, with Beitar’s first training session ahead of the new season at the start of the month being marred by violent scenes at Bayit Vegan.

Around 3,000 fans attended what is usually a celebratory occasion, but a small group of supporters decided instead to swear, spit and throw rocks at goalkeeper Ariel Harush and midfielder Dario Fernandez, attacking them for their support of the Chechens last season.

Harush and Fernandez have since made peace with the unruly supporters, but Revivo stoked the flames last month by declaring that the signing of another Muslim player to Beitar would be a “provocation” against the fans “who aren’t ready” for an Arab player.

The State Attorney’s office wrote a letter to the Israel Football Association demanding that they look into the matter and determine if Revivo should face disciplinary action. “Disqualification of a person on behalf of religious affiliation, nationality, race, etc. is unacceptable in a civilized society,” Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Affairs, Eli Abarbanel, wrote in the letter.

Revivo claimed that his words were misinterpreted and tried to evade the subject on Wednesday.

“There are a lot of people who don’t understand what I said. Every person interprets it any way they like,” said Revivo, who spent three years of his illustrious playing career at Turkish clubs Fenerbahce and Galatasaray.

“I said that when the time is right there might be an Arab player at Beitar. We want to bring the fans back and avoid a repeat of last season. I didn’t want to provoke the fans.”

Revivo also spoke of the club’s professional preparations for the new season.

“Our preparations aren’t ideal, but we are not looking for any excuses,” said Revivo. “We plan to make many changes and this is going to be a transition year.”

Coach Cohen pleaded the fans for patience. “It’s a big responsibility to guide Beitar at this time,” said Cohen. “I promise the fans that with a little bit of patience we will have a good team.”

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