Muslim Soccer Players at Beitar Jerusalem Met With Spitting and Insults

150 fans arrive at team's training ground to protest the signing on of two new players, Gibril Kadiyev and Zaur Sadayev, who were eventually forced to leave the area under police escort.

Moshe Boker
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Moshe Boker

About 150 fans of Beitar Jerusalem arrived at the team’s training ground in Bayit Vegan on Friday morning, which was surrounded by regular and riot police units brought there to maintain order. The fans were there to protest the signing on of two new players to the team, Gibril Kadiyev and Zaur Sadayev, both from Chechnya. They were met with verbal abuse and were spat on, accompanied by demands to remove the Beitar team shirts. Every time one of them got the ball, the fans responded with derisive whistling. The two were finally forced to leave the area surrounded by police and security guards.

The team’s coach, Eli Cohen, also became a target of abuse. “You’ve lost all your credit with us”, yelled the fans at Cohen and his deputy Talesnikov. Team manager Itzik Kornfein was met with chants calling on him to resign, to which he responded with a smile on his face.

Toward the end of the practice, some of the fans tried to rush onto the playing field, and only the intervention of guards prevented a serious altercation between them and club members.

Beitar officials say that the newcomers are stunned by developments over the last few days, but plan on staying on and coming to practice, receiving support from team members. In the meantime, the two are under the protection of bodyguards. Cohen and Kornfein told the team that they are pleased with the new players and will not allow a few hotheads to get in the way of the team’s success.

Coach Eli Cohen asked his players not to let the events of last week hamper their preparations for their next match against Ramat Hasharon on Sunday. Cohen stressed that this was an important game that will determine the team’s placing in the playoffs. Players told team managers that they are receiving dozens of harassing messages and phone calls from fanatic fans. Kaiyev and Sadayev have sorted out their financial issues with the team, and Cohen now has to decide if they will in fact be in the lineup.

Beitar Jerusalem fans show their team spirit.Credit: Nir Keidar

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