Israeli club unveil Muslim players after uproar
Published : 30 Jan 2013 19:16:57Rss feed
Beitar Jerusalem unveiled two Muslim footballers from Chechnya, whose signing caused uproar among some of the club's more racist supporters, on Wednesday.
Zaur Sadaev and Dzhabrail Kadaev, signed from Russian League club Terek Grozny, reportedly came through medicals at the club and were presented to fans.
News of their transfer last Saturday enraged some of the club's fans, who chanted racist anti-Arab slogans and waved signs reading "Beitar -- pure forever" during a game later that day.
After the match, police arrested three fans for incitement to racism, but Russian-Israeli owner Arkady Gaydamak insisted the signing would go ahead, saying the opposition came from a small minority of supporters.
But there were no major incidents in Tuesday's match between Beitar and the Arab-Israeli team from Umm al-Fahm, which Beitar won 5-0.
Speaking on Wednesday through an interpreter, Sadaev, 23, said he felt at home and that he had "come to play football, nothing else".
Kadaev, 19, said the two were not afraid of playing for the club, despite the uproar which greeted their move.
"We do not know the word fear," he said.
Coach Eli Cohen, wished them luck, "even though it will be difficult".
Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat made a point of attending the brief press conference to stress: "We will not accept any kind of violence and any kind of racism."
He added: "I'm proud of the club and its ability to sustain coexistence."
Beitar Jerusalem have a reputation of attracting a hard core of anti-Arab fans, with many of its supporters adamant the club should never sign an Arab player, even though Muslim footballers have played for Beitar in the past.