Aguiar - I'll resurrect Betar Jerusalem from the dead
Brazilian-born millionaire assures 'Post': I'm not going to run away. I live in Jerusalem. I'm not going anywhere.
By JEREMY LAST
Guma Aguiar insisted on Tuesday that he will make sure Betar Jerusalem survives well into the future, even though he has yet to commit to either buying or sponsoring the Premier League club.
Speaking exclusively to The Jerusalem Post by phone from the US, the Brazilian-born millionaire Jewish energy mogul said: "I'm guaranteeing we [Betar Jerusalem] will be playing next season and we will be winning championships in the next few years.
"I already have and will [put money into the club]. There's no way I won't. It'll [Betar Jerusalem] be resurrected from the dead. We will be playing next year."
Betar is expected to file for bankruptcy in the near future as current owner Arkadi Gaydamak has refused to continue funding the organization past the end of the 2008/09 season, which ended on Monday with Jerusalem holding Maccabi Haifa to a 1-1 draw.
Rumors have been rife in recent days of many of the team's top players agreeing deals to move to other Israeli clubs, with goalkeeper Tvrtko Kale reportedly on the verge of signing for newly-promoted Hapoel Beersheba.
While Aguiar, 32, said he has yet to make a decision on what path to take, he did his best to distance himself from Gaydamak.
"I have no agenda other than to make sure the team survives for the next 120 years. This belongs to the city of Jerusalem, not me," Aguiar said.
"We've now allowed the organization to go into Chapter 11. The reason is there were way too many liabilities out there. I'm not going to go out there and lose my ass over Gaydamak's stupid liabilities. He can deal with that himself. He shouldn't want me to pay for his bills."
However he did not rule out buying the club in the future.
"I'm definitely not going to buy the club under the circumstances. However, Itzik Kornfein and other people are in charge of cleaning up the liabilities and presenting me with a package, a proposal. I'm in touch with Itzik Kornfein. [Jerusalem mayor] Nir Barkat's in it.
"We're all on the same page. We all want the same thing. That Betar Jerusalem will continue and we won't have to deal with this again.
"I don't want some Russian oligarch coming and buying the team for his ego."
Aguiar, who was born Jewish but lived as an evangelical Christian until the age of 26, continued to be proud of his religous commitment.
In early May he made his first public appearance since rumors of his interest in Betar first circulated at the State Cup semifinals.
However he was nowhere to be seen at the final last week, which Betar won 2-1.
"During the game when everybody was wondering where I was, I was praying on the Temple Mount," he explained. "I was praying Betar would win the game."
Expanding on why he didn't attend the final, he added: "I didn't want to bring the attention. I wanted the fans to enjoy the game and the soccer. It's about the team not about me.
"I'm not in it for my ego. Thats what people don't understand. If people think I'm in it for my ego I'll pull out of this thing so fast nobody will have any idea what happened."
The celebrations by Betar's fans and players following the Cup win have caused significant controversy, especially when forward Amit Ben-Shushan was seen on Channel 2 singing along with an anti-Arab song.
Aguiar said he had not been made aware of the situation, but would not want to employ the player if it did in fact occur.
"If he was singing the song 'I hate the Arabs' I don't want to see him again, unless he's got a damn good reason," said Aguiar.
The man who lives for much of the year in Jerusalem's Yemin Moshe neighborhood also noted that he had been surprised by the massive media focus on him in the past month.
"I really walked into this thing innocently. I didn't realize it was going to cause all this media attention," he said, while saying that he hadn't heard of Betar Jerusalem until two months ago.
The due diligence process, which has seen Aguiar's lawyers and accountants going through the club's books, is nearing its end and he said it has cost him "well into seven figures, if not more just till this point."
"I've spent more money on this team than probably Gaydamak has in the last six months," he claimed.
And to those who think he might give up on the project, Aguiar concluded: "I'm not going to run away. I live in Jerusalem. I'm not going anywhere. I'm just trying to make sure the team survives."
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