JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel’s Beitar Jerusalem want to play Tuesday’s State Cup tie against second-division Arab club Maccabi Umm el-Fahm behind closed doors so that they can bar their own racist fans from entering the Teddy Kollek Stadium.
The Israel Football Association (IFA) said it was considering the request after several Beitar fans held up banners during a Premier League match on Saturday to protest owner Arkady Gaydamak’s planned recruitment of two Chechen Muslim players.
One banner read “Beitar will always remain pure”. Other signs criticised Gaydamak’s plan to sign Zaur Sadayev and Dzhabrail Kadiyev.
On Sunday, the IFA said Beitar would face a disciplinary hearing.
“Beitar’s management expressed its disgust at the racist incidents during Saturday’s match ... As a first step, the club has asked to be punished with a spectator ban for the match against Umm el-Fahm. The IFA said it would not object to the request,” an IFA statement said.
A ruling is expected on Tuesday, just hours before the match will be played in Jerusalem.
An Umm el-Fahm official said the club’s players would walk off the pitch if Beitar fans chanted against the Prophet Mohammed.
Beitar are a bastion of Israel’s political right-wing and the only leading team in the country never to have signed an Arab player because of fan pressure.
They have the worst disciplinary record in Israel’s Premier League. Since 2005 Beitar have faced more than 20 hearings and have received various punishments, including points deductions, fines and matches behind closed doors.
In a ruling a year ago, an IFA court said Beitar “had not made an honest effort to combat fans’ racist chants”.
Arab citizens make up some 20 percent of Israel’s population of almost eight million. Arab players have long been included in Israel’s national team.
Writing by Ori Lewis, editing by Pritha Sarkar