Businessman Moshe Hogeg announced on Thursday that he was selling Beitar Jerusalem, one of Israel’s most famous football teams, after three tumultuous years as its owner, during which he faced an anti-Arab fan base and tried – but failed – to give half of it to an Emirati businessman Selling .

In a statement, 39-year-old Hogeg said that after consulting his family during the Rosh Hashanah festival, he decided to leave Beitar immediately and appoint attorney Itzhak Yunger as temporary trustee, citing the racist fan group La Familia as the reason .

“Beitar Jerusalem is not a business,” he wrote. “I and others before me donated a lot of money to this club for its community. I have never asked for a medal or even a small thank you. On the other hand, with all due respect, it is unacceptable for me to donate huge sums of money every month, nearly NIS 120 million ($ 37.5 million), and then when I walk into the stadium to cast uninterrupted curses against myself, my wife and even hear my children. “

“I’ve never been put off by La Familia. I fought racism and violence without fear. I brought in a Muslim player and I didn’t give up today, ”he said. “This fight doesn’t stop and will continue after me.”

Hogeg, a tech entrepreneur and cryptocurrency trader, bought Beitar in 2018 and said he set out to change his culture from the start.

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However, he faced a backlash from the notoriously racist anti-Arab factions among fans of the club after selling a 50 percent stake in the club to Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, a member of the Abu Dhabi ruling family, in 2020. Al Nahyan pledged to pump $ 90 million into the team over the next decade.

Then the Israel Football Association conducted an investigation which found a potential “significant gap” between Al Nahyan’s declared capital and his actual possessions, business news website The Marker reported in January.

Members of the La Familia group protest against the intention of the Beitar owner Moshe Hogeg to sell a percentage of the group to a member of the royal family of the United Arab Emirates on December 4, 2020 at the training ground of Beitar Jerusalem in Jerusalem. (Flash90)

In February, Beitar Jerusalem said the request for approval of the deal, which was required by the Israel Football Association, had been withdrawn due to a bureaucratic delay regarding the documents Al Nahyan requested. Despite insisting that the deal only be postponed, the IFA investigation into Al Nahyan, conducted by financial investigation firm Megiddo, reportedly concluded that the sheikh owns dozens of inactive firms and is allegedly connected to business people involved in fraud and money laundering.

The owner of Beitar Jerusalem, Moshe Hogeg (center, black T-shirt), his new partner Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Nahyan (fourth from right) and the son of Sheikh Mohammad, Beitar’s new vice chairman (third from right), discuss their new joint owned by the Israeli soccer club at an online press conference of the UAE, December 8, 2020. On the far right is Solly Wolf, President of the Jewish Community of the United Arab Emirates. (Screenshot)

Israel established diplomatic relations with the UAE in September 2020 as part of the Trump administration-sponsored Abraham Accord. It brought a flurry of investment from Emirati businessmen to Israel.

Beitar is one of the most famous franchises in the country and has fans of Israeli presidents and prime ministers.

But it has also drawn negative attention for many years as it was the only major club that never had an Arab player. The Arab minority in Israel makes up approximately 20% of the population, and Arab players play on rival teams and on the country’s national squad.

Club officials have said in the past that their hands are tied by a hard-core base of right-wing extremist fans who have a significant say in hiring decisions. A small group of fans, known as La Familia, are known to cheer like monkeys when a player from an opposing team from Africa touches the ball and sing “Death to the Arabs” to rival Arab players.

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