The appearance of a new player for the next season in the Beitar Jerusalem football team, under normal circumstances, would have remained unnoticed outside the community of fans. This time, however, the story hit the headlines across the country and even abroad. The main news was the name of a new player – Ali Mohamed , who immediately caught the eye of the most racist fans of the team.
Some of these dedicated fans are members of a group called La Familia , known not only for their fanatical love for the team, but also for their intense racism and hatred for the Arabs, which they publicly admit. Sometimes these fans appear at matches in the ultra-right Kach T-shirts, and proudly call themselves “the most racist club in the world.” In August 2018, the leaders of La Familia met the owner of Beitar, Moshe Hogheg, and let him know that they would do everything possible. to block any attempt at buying Muslim players. In the past, they appeared in the stands of the stadium with huge posters and banners with slogans, such as “Beitar, Forever Clean”.
The racism of these fans reached its peak in 2013, when the then club owner and businessman Arkady Gaydamak hired two Chechen Muslims, Dzhabrail Kadiyev and Zaur Sadaev , despite the harsh opposition of La Familia. The fans responded by cursing the players during training and games, setting fire to Beitar’s offices, and booing them and leaving when Sadaev scored a goal for the team. A few months later, two Chechens broke down, left the team and left Israel forever.
In November 2018, Hogeg said: “Not every Muslim wants to kill a Jew. Beitar will be as diverse as the Israeli national team. ” This could have foreshadowed his recent move to add Ali Mohamed to the roster on 10 June. La Familia immediately responded by warning Hogega not to hire Mohamed, who was a citizen of Niger and played for Maccabi Netanya last season. La Familia said that no Mohamed will ever play at Teddy Stadium. But Hogeg refuses to be kept on the threats of the fans – at a time when a number of leading football players in the world are Muslims, such a categorical condition turned out to be unacceptable for him. In response, he filed a complaint with the police and threatened a lawsuit against four fans for damaging the team’s reputation.
However, one more circumstance was revealed, which softened Beitar’s fans. It turned out that the 23-year-old football player from Niger, despite his name, is a faithful Christian. La Famila posted a message on social networks: “After carefully studying the player’s identity, we can declare that we have no problems with Ali, but we have problems with his name and we will change his name so that Muhammad will not talk sound at Teddy Stadium. ”
Hogeg did not calm down and answered defiantly enough: “No one will be forced to change his name. Ali Mohamed will play for Beitar, and he will be an important addition to the team, and we will often hear the name Mohamed sing in the stands because of his performances on the field. ”
Hogeg also said that he was not interested in the religion of a football player, and that he would hire him, even if he was a Muslim. After such sharp comments, fans erased their post about the name of Mohamed. As a result, they came to the decision to call him simply “Mo”, just as the Egyptian Muhammad Salah is called in England.
In general, it is noted that the strong position of Hogega leads to a decrease in racist incidents in the stands in recent years. If earlier chants like “Death by the Arabs” and “Burn their villages to the ground” were common, now racist chants from the fans of other teams are heard more often at the same matches, and usually in the form of “Beitar’s fans” are Arabs.
Mohamed himself is stunned by all the turmoil around him. Through his agent, he said: “I’m confused. I dream of success, but I don’t want the team fans to oppose me. ” His agent said that Mohamed received hundreds of support messages from Beitar fans, as well as several messages demanding that he change his name, otherwise his life would be seriously complicated.
By the way, over the past few years there have been many clashes between supporters of La Familia and the fans of the Arab football club Bnei Sakhnin. Some matches between the two teams even took place without any fans in the stands. Fans of “Beitar” often expressed their hatred for Arabs with songs and chants, mocking the Arab Knesset member Ahmad Tibi, an ardent fan who attends all the games of Bnei Sakhnin. Interestingly, the football team of the Arab team was accused of “provocation”, due to the fact that they make a sajd in accordance with the custom of Muslim football players after each goal.
Only in 2018, with the mediation of Israeli President Reuven Rivlin (a fan of Beitar, fighting against racism), an amicable agreement was reached between the two teams.