Beitar Jerusalem ushers in Israel-UAE era

Co-owners Hogeg, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Nahyan tout joint vision of growth for soccer club

Beitar Jerusalem co-owners Moshe Hogeg (center) and Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Nahyan (right) pose with the sheikh’s son, Mohamed, after signing their historic partnership agreement on Monday evening. (photo credit: BEITAR JERUSALEM/COURTESY)
Beitar Jerusalem co-owners Moshe Hogeg (center) and Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Nahyan (right) pose with the sheikh’s son, Mohamed, after signing their historic partnership agreement on Monday evening.
(photo credit: BEITAR JERUSALEM/COURTESY)
Israeli soccer remained in high spirits after Monday’s historic partnership agreement between Beitar Jerusalem owner Moshe Hogeg and Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Nahyan from the United Arab Emirates.
The deal saw Hogeg relinquish 50% of the club’s ownership for an investment of over 300 Million NIS that will be put into infrastructure, the youth academy and future player acquisitions.
A festive press conference was held on Tuesday to formally announce the collaboration as the principles, along with Mohamed bin Hamad bin Khalifa – the sheikh’s son who will act as his representative – spoke about the club’s current situation, vision and coexistence between all religions.
“I’m very emotional today,” said Hogeg. “This is a historic day for Beitar Jerusalem and these are the first real fruits between the nation of Israel and the United Arab Emirates since the peace agreements were made between the countries. Everyone who wants to benefit from the football club knows that this is a great moment. We want to win games, score goals and make the fans happy.
“We want to show the people that after many years of thinking that Jews and Muslims can’t get along that this is the ultimate start and that true peace between the peoples can be reached. We want to be able to scream ‘goal’ and show that we can work together.”
Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Nahyan also commented on becoming a co-owner of one of Israel’s largest sports franchises.
“After the signing of the peace treaty we have been exploring many possibilities and strategic partnerships. One of things that we realized within the last two weeks was a partnership with my friend Moshe Hogeg. This is a milestone in the process.
“I think that Beitar is one of the top five clubs in Israel and I see an opportunity to develop the club and take it to the next level. But even more importantly is my relationship with my brother, Moshe Hogeg.”
One of the underlying issues that has plagued the club over the past couple of decades is the allegedly racist fan element within the club’s supporters. Both Hogeg and the sheikh have made it clear that they are not only aware of the problem, but have plans to wipe it out.
“We are accepting the challenge and we want to make an example that Jews and Muslims can work together,” said the sheikh. “This doesn’t worry me at all. The age of the group are all youngsters [between the ages of] 16 to 22 and they are misled and brainwashed. They are on the dark side and we can show them the light.”
Hogeg concurred with his new partner.
“I am fully aligned with the sheikh and we are not afraid of the racists as we have a plan. Jerusalem is holy place for Christians, Muslims and Jews and we want everyone to enjoy the club and if anyone steps in our way they will be dealt with.
“Racism is a result of we want to do beautiful things together and we have no tolerance for racism and violence. We will fight the leaders and if we have to go to court we will go to court or go to the police. We want people to be able to see football like a show and we know how to do that. Over the last two years there have been zero racist comments and we will accept this challenge and win.”
As for improvements on the field, Mohamed bin Hamad bin Khalifa will work together with the professional staff win order to upgrade the quality of the team, with an eye to the future with the youth department as being the key to the success.
“I have a huge passion and love for football and I have been involved for many years,” said the sheikh’s son. “We want to invest in the youth and take this club to the next level. We need to strengthen the defense a bit and we will do whatever required from any side. We have experts with us and we will do all that is needed. My plan is to invest in youth, heavily in infrastructure, training facilities and scouts.”
Hogeg already has examples to look for successful youth academies.
“We want to build a strong club and there will be a professional layer. We have the vision and we know where we want to go. We all agree that both Dortmund and Shakhtar Donetsk do very interesting things and they have a strategy when you look at their young players. Their 17 and 18 year old players are continuously making great impressions.”
As for bringing in a player or two from the UAE to join Beitar, the sheikh is ready to welcome the best and brightest players.
“We are open for all of the talent no matter what their religion is and wherever they come from.”
Joshua Halickman, the Sports Rabbi, covers Israeli sports and organizes Israel sports adventures for tourists and residents (www.sportsrabbi.com). Follow the Sports Rabbi on Twitter @thesportsrabbi or feel free to contact the Sports Rabbi at [email protected]