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Newly-signed Beitar Jerusalem player Ali Mohamed. Photo: Facebook

Israeli soccer fans demand alias for new Beitar Jerusalem player because Ali Mohamed sounds ‘too Muslim’

  • Hard core far-right fans known as ‘La Familia’ posted the comment on their Facebook page, which has thousands of followers
  • Club is only one in Israel never to have fielded an Arab player. Ali Mohamed is a Christian from Niger

Far-right supporters of Israel’s Beitar Jerusalem football club on Tuesday demanded that new player Ali Mohamed find an alias for his surname due to its Muslim associations.

“Like other players in the past, Ali Mohamed will have to find himself a nickname if he is going to play at Teddy,” the hard core “La Familia” group posted on its Facebook page, which has 36,000 followers.

Beitar Jerusalem fans before the UEFA Europa League play-off match against AS Saint-Etienne at the Itztadion Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem in August 2016. Photo: AFP

Beitar, based at Jerusalem’s Teddy Stadium, has historically been considered anti-Muslim and anti-Arab. But despite his name, the 23-year-old striker from Niger is actually Christian, Israeli media reported.

The first division club, which has its roots in the nationalist right, is the only Israeli side never to have fielded an Arab player, although Arabs account for 17.5 per cent of the country’s population.

In 2013, the club’s signing of two Muslim players from Chechnya sparked tension. Reaction from fans led to the team having to employ bodyguards for them and the club’s offices were torched.

In 2017 club manager Eli Cohen resigned under pressure after pledging never to sign a Muslim player.

Last year Beitar’s new owner said such events were in the past and religion would no longer be a criterion for signings. That stance was reiterated on the official club Facebook page on Monday evening.

“We are proud to have signed Ali Mohamed, the best foreign player in the league,” it stated. “We have read the reactions and threats following the transfer of Ali Mohamed and we will not let a minority tarnish the reputation of the club.”

Beitar Jerusalem has been trying to change its image in recent years and in 2017 received an award for its fight against racism.