Arab Owner, but No Arab Players: Abu Dhabi Sheikh Buys Stake in Jerusalem Soccer Club

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Moshe Hogeg and Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, December 7, 2020
Moshe Hogeg and Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, December 7, 2020Credit: Beitar Jerusalem

A member of Abu Dhabi's ruling family has purchased a 50 percent stake of Israeli Premier League soccer club Beitar Jerusalem, the team announced on Monday.

In an announcement posted to its website, Beitar said Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Nahyan's purchase also included a commitment to invest over 300 million shekels ($92.18 million) in the club over the next ten years, but Moshe Hogeg will remain a controlling shareholder.

The prominent Israeli soccer team announced in September it was negotiating a possible investment by a group in the United Arab Emirates in a statement that followed the announcement that Israel and the UAE had agreed to normalize ties.

>> Buying Jerusalem soccer club, Emiratis just invested in Israel's ruling class

Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, the son of the United Arab Emirates' President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, gave an interview with the religious Zionist newspaper Makor Rishon last August, and said: "I think it's time to leave the past behind and focus on the prosperity of both sides."

The talks between Beitar owner Moshe Hogeg and an Emirati group, brokered by Jewish Emirati businessman Naum Koen, who heads the holding company NY Koen Group, prompted strong opposition from the far-right fan club known as La Familia.

Last week, far-right fans from the Jerusalem soccer club distrupted the team's training session and chanted racist refrains over the negotiations.

Hogeg noted in response that his father was born in Tunisia and his mother’s family came from Morocco, and said in a statement denouncing racism: “I am a Jewish Arab.” The bitcoin millionaire, who took over the club in 2018, has sought to tackle racism among the supporters and rehabilitate the image of the club.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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