Beitar owner weighs future with team after chants against player named Mohamed
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Beitar owner weighs future with team after chants against player named Mohamed

Police arrest 4 supporters of Jerusalem soccer team for racist chants against newly signed Nigerien midfielder

Beitar Jerusalem fans yell chants against the team's midfielder Ali Mohamed during the squad's first practice of the preseason on July 10, 2019. (Screen capture: Twitter)
Beitar Jerusalem fans yell chants against the team's midfielder Ali Mohamed during the squad's first practice of the preseason on July 10, 2019. (Screen capture: Twitter)

The owner of the Beitar Jerusalem soccer team has suggested he may part ways with the club following racist chants by fans against a new player with a Muslim-sounding name.

Some 4,000 Beitar supporters on Wednesday attended the team’s first practice of the preseason, in which the club’s Nigerien midfielder Ali Mohamed participated after being signed during the off-season.

Video from the practice showed a number of fans clad in Beitar’s black and yellow colors chanting “Mohamed is dead” and “Ali is dead.”

Police arrested four people for chanting racist slogans, throwing a smoke grenade, disturbing the peace and operating a drone without a license.

New Beitar Jerusalem midfielder Ali Mohamed at the team’s training facility in Jerusalem on June 25, 2019. (Flash90)

Following the practice session, Beitar put out a statement condemning the chants and said owner Moshe Hogeg was weighing his future with the team.

Hogeg, a high-tech entrepreneur, said after buying the team in August that he hoped to put it on a “new path” and that religion would no longer be a factor in the club’s personnel decisions.

After signing Mohamed, who identifies as Christian, Hogeg said he received threats from far-right fans to his phone, but claimed he was unconcerned by them or by Mohamed’s religion or origin, and vowed to sue any who threatened him.

Beitar, one of Israel’s top soccer teams, is known for its long history of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiment, and is the only club in the Israeli league that has never had an Arab Muslim player. Officials on the team have indicated in the past that it is unofficial policy.

Moshe Hogeg, businessman and Beitar Jerusalem owner, visits the Western Wall in the Jerusalem, on August 13, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The team has been trying to change its image in recent years and in 2017 it received an award from President Reuven Rivlin for its efforts to tackle racism and for significantly reducing the number of racist chants at its games.

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