AG pledges to eradicate racism from sports fields

Two Chechen soccer players at the center of recent Beitar Jerusalem controversy to be treated to visits from moms

Adiv Sterman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Fans of the Beitar Jerusalem soccer team hold up a sign reading 'Beitar forever pure,' on January 26, 2013. (Flash90)
Fans of the Beitar Jerusalem soccer team hold up a sign reading 'Beitar forever pure,' on January 26, 2013. (Flash90)

In wake of the bigoted fan reactions to the signing of Muslim players to the Israeli soccer club Beitar Jerusalem, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein said he would promote legislation aimed at rooting out racism from the stadiums.

Weinstein wrote to Beitar chairman Itzik Kornfein that “the issue will be handled in the best way possible” in response to  a request from Kornfein for help in dealing with the problem.

The attorney general said he planned to meet with representatives of the State Attorney’s Office, Israel Police and the Sport and Culture Ministry to review ways of stamping out bigotry on the sports field.

Weinstein said he intended to ask for recommendations on possible legislative changes, such as providing incentives for associations and sports clubs that strive toward increased tolerance.

Weinstein added that “the Israeli public should condemn all manifestations of racism,” and the law enforcement should back up the effort.

At the center of recent racist incidents were two Muslim Chechen players, Zaur Sadayev and Gabriel Kadiev, whom the team welcomed in a press conference last week attended by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and dozens of foreign reporters.

The two received a pleasant surprise Wednesday when the club’s management informed them that their mothers would arrive in Israel later in the week. “They are still a little stressed and so, to prevent them from even thinking about leaving the club, Arkady [Gaydamak, the team’s co-owner] decided to give them everything they want,” said a Beitar official.

“A mom provides warmth and security. That is exactly what they need now,” he said.

The signing of the two was fiercely criticized by members of the team’s fan base who opposed having Muslims play for the club. In a game last Saturday, some supporters chanted racist slogans and held up a banner reading “Beitar forever pure.”

That stunt and other incidents during the game led to three arrests and earned condemnation by politicians and pundits across the spectrum, but was consistent with Beitar’s staunch nationalist identity.

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