Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, a member of Abu Dhabi’s ruling family, on Monday took a stake of around 50 percent in Israeli football club Beitar Jerusalem, whose fans are known for racist chants against Arabs and Muslims.
The deal was sealed for a 300m shekel (almost $92m) investment over a 10-year period, and was brokered by Naum Koen, a Ukrainian-born Israeli businessman based in the United Arab Emirates.
The first reports of a potential deal appeared in September, just days before the UAE, Bahrain and ‘Israel’ signed an agreement normalizing ties in Washington.
Beitar’s owner Moshe Hogeg traveled to Dubai on 3 December along with the club’s CEO Moni Brosh and chairman Eli Ohana, hoping to ink a deal before the end of the year.
Beitar Jerusalem called the deal “historic,” saying the money will be invested in infrastructure, the youth academy and for scouting and recruitment of players.
A new board of directors will be formed, and Hamad’s son, Mohammad bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Nayhan, will represent his father on the board.
Hamad bin Khalifa Al Nahyan said after signing the deal: “I am excited to be a partner in such a glorious club… I have heard a lot about the change taking place in the club and the way things are going, and I am happy to take part in that.”
The deal is one of the most significant and prominent signed between Israeli and Emirati parties since the US-brokered normalization deal.
Tech, security and tourism agreements are also being inked between the two sides, which before September had no official relations but had become close in recent years.
According to Sports Walla, Beitar’s fans have seen 12 years of bad performances and results, and without a genuine change in the club’s management and financial structure the team’s future was looking dire.
Beitar fans expressed their anger and objection to the deal with the Emiratis last week.
Some of the club’s fans sprayed offensive and racist graffiti on the outer wall of Beitar Jerusalem’s stadium, saying: “Muhammad is Dead”, “Death to Arabs”, and “You can’t buy us!!!