Fans of Israeli soccer team walk out in protest when one of their own players, a Muslim, scores his first goal
Mar 7, 2013, 9:00 AM EST
It’s hard to imagine a U.S. sports steam being connected to a political party (if you’re a Republican, you must love the Eagles! Democrats get out!), but that’s sometimes the way they roll in other parts of the world. Beitar Jerusalem, an Israeli Premier League soccer team, is strongly identified with the country’s political right. Only five non-Israeli players have ever played for the team.
Two of those play for them now, and to make matters even more controversial, they are both Muslims. Zaur Sadayev and Dzhabrail Kadiyev were signed earlier this season by the club’s president, Arkady Gaydamak, and many of the team’s hard core fans have not gotten over it. The team’s main offices were torched last week, and on Monday during a game with Maccabi Netanya, hundreds of Beitar walked out of the stadium after one of the Muslim players, Sadayev, scored his first goal of the season.
Beitar’s best player, the Argentinian Dario Fernandez, jumped on Sadayev’s shoulders and celebrated with him, but the reaction in the crowd was confused to say the least. In one stand supporters screamed with elation, but behind the goal, in the La Familia end, hundreds walked out.
“The reaction to the Muslim players being here is not racist,” insisted 19-year-old Akeeva, a Beitar fan. “But the club’s existence is under threat. Beitar is a symbol for the whole country.”
Jacob, another fan, agrees, “It’s just a matter of being Arab [by which he means Muslim]. It’s not racism, they just shouldn’t be here. Beitar Jerusalem has always been a clean club, but now it’s being destroyed – many of the other players are thinking of leaving because of the Muslim players being here.”
To be fair to Beitar fans, however, it should be noted that Sadayev was given a standing ovation when he entered the game. It was only fans in one portion of Teddy Stadium (Beitar’s home field) that walked out.
There was one sign in the crowd that read ‘Beitar Will Always Remain Pure’. You will forgive me if my mind is blown. If there are people of any country on Earth who should know how toxic and destructive a sign like that is, shouldn’t it be Israel?
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