Beitar boss quits after saying he would never sign a Muslim at the club

Beitar Jerusalem's supporters chant slogans beside a banner during an Israeli championship football match between Beitar Jerusalem and Bnei Sakhnin at the Teddy Kollek Stadium in Jerusalem on February 10, 2013. The Beitar Jerusalem soccer club hosted the Israeli Arab team Bnei Sakhnin in a highly charged atmosphere, only three days after indictments were filed against four Beitar fans over charges relating to racism.  AFP PHOTO / STR        (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)

September 14 – The new adviser to Israel’s Beitar Jerusalem, the most nationalistic club in the country, has quit a mere 10 days after assuming the post for refusing to apologise for declaring he would never sign a Muslim player. 

Eli Cohen – who had just begun his fourth stint at the club – sparked a furore when he told the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper that he wouldn’t bring in a Muslim player because he was a “realistic person.”

Beitar has a unique unwanted status in Israel as being the only top-flight club currently without an Arab-Israeli on its books. Three years ago, fans burned down the club’s training complex after the signing of two Muslim players and Beitar fans are known for singing anti-Arab chants.

“I experienced first-hand what happened when Muslim players came five years ago, and therefore I would not take a Muslim player into Beitar,” Cohen had said. “I had many Arab and Muslim players in the groups that I trained, from Hadera to Hapoel Tel Aviv and Maccabi Haifa.”

“Whoever is stupid and wants to label me as a racist after this can say whatever he wants.”

Last year, 19 members of a Beitar fans group were charged with attempted murder, including of rival supporters, but the club has been trying to shed its image of far-right nationalism so Cohen’s comments did not go down well with the authorities.

Conflicting reports said he had either been fired or resigned but he later told a TV sports programme: “They’re trying to paint me as a racist. It’s disgusting. I’m broken. I gave up offers from teams such as Bnei Sakhnin and Hapoel Haifa. Everything has exploded in my face.”

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