A member of the United Arab Emirates royal family has purchased a major stake in the infamous Israeli soccer team Beitar Jerusalem, notorious for its racist fans and supporters who have consistently targeted Muslim players.
Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Nahyan has bought 50 percent of the shares and will invest 300 million shekels (about $90 million) in the team over the next decade, the soccer club announced on Monday afternoon.
Beitar Jerusalem hailed the deal as “historic and exciting.”
A statement on the soccer club’s official website quoted the Emirati royal as referring to occupied Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s capital – a position unanimously condemned by the Muslim world and much of the international community.
“I am moved to be a partner in such an esteemed club… and in such a city, the capital of Israel and one of the holiest cities in the world,” bin Khalifa said.
He added, “I heard a lot about the changes the club is undergoing and how it’s being managed, and I am happy to take part in that.”
Jewish-Emirati businessman Naum Koen, chairman of the NY Koen Group, negotiated the deal between the sheikh and Beitar Jerusalem. “This is a very exciting moment,” he commented.
The move comes more than two months after the UAE signed a US-brokered agreement at the White house to normalize relations with the Tel Aviv regime.
On September 15, United States President Donald Trump hosted a White House ceremony, where Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signed normalization agreements with Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani.
The normalization deals have drawn widespread condemnation from Palestinians, who seek an independent state in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital. They say the deals ignore their rights and do not serve the Palestinian cause.
Beitar Jerusalem is the only soccer club in the Israeli Premier League that has never fielded an Arab player.
The team has faced several penalties for its fans hardcore opposition to Palestinian players as well as racist slogans like “Death to Arabs.”
Many of Beitar Jerusalem’s extremist supporters are part of the far-right La Familia fan group.
In 2013, fans protested the signing of two Chechen Muslim players, Gabriel Kadiev and Zaur Sadayev, from the Russian league. Shortly after the footballers were introduced into the team, members of La Familia set fire to one of the club's offices.
Three years later, 19 members of the group were charged with attempted murder, including of rival supporters.