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Volume 6 No. 216

International Football

The plans of Beitar Jerusalem, an Israeli football club "notorious for the anti-Arab chants of its fans," to recruit two Muslim players has led to fan protests in the stands, according to Ori Lewis of REUTERS. At a Israeli Premier League game on Saturday, Beitar supporters held a banner reading "Beitar will always remain pure." Other signs hoisted by fans also protested against Owner Arkady Gaydamak's intention "to have two Muslim Chechen players join." The Beitar club is a "bastion of Israel's political right-wing and the only leading football team in the country never to have signed an Arab player because of fan pressure." Deputy PM Moshe Yaalon said, "I was shocked by the racism displayed in the Beitar Jerusalem stands yesterday against having Muslim or Arab players on the team." He wrote on Twitter: "We cannot ignore these displays of racism which not long ago were directed -- and are still being directed -- towards the Jewish people." Police at the match arrested three supporters on suspicion of incitement (REUTERS, 1/27). The AFP wrote Gaydamak has "remained steadfast on his decision to bring in the players," who are reported to be Zaur Sadaev and Dzhabrail Kadaev from Russian Premier League club Terek Grozny. Gaydamak said, "(It) is very clear that the absolute majority of Beitar supporters and general Israeli population are against the anti-Muslim provocation created by the very small group of supporters." He insisted he was "absolutely" going to bring in the players to the club (AFP, 1/27).

The conviction of 21 people responsible for last year's mass football riot in Port Said, Egypt prompted clashes to flare anew in the "turbulent" city on Sunday, "killing at least three more people as a mass funeral was held for most of the 37 people who died during intense riots in the city a day earlier," according to Mossad El-Gohary of the AP.  Violence in the city erupted on Saturday after a court "convicted and sentenced 21 defendants to death" for their roles in the football riot at Port Said stadium on Feb. 1, which left 74 dead. Most of those sentenced to death were local football fans from Port Said. The riots "stemmed mostly from animosity" between police and die-hard Egyptian football fans, known as Ultras, who have become "highly politicized" (AP, 1/27). In London, Heba Saleh reported football fans suspect the police of having "deliberately allowed the massacre to happen as an act of vengeance against the Ultras who have often fought them on the side of protesters during two years of political unrest" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 1/26).