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the post-racial world

Israeli Soccer Fans Walk Out After Their Own Team’s Muslim Player Scores a Goal

In this Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013 photo Beitar Jerusalem F.C. soccer supporters watch a State Cup soccer match against Maccabi Umm al-Fahm F.C. at the Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem. Beitar has long tried to quell a tight-knit group that calls itself "La Familia" and whose behavior has had the team docked points and forced it to play before empty stadiums. The group is routinely abusive toward opposing players, taunting them with racist and anti-Arab chants. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue) The offices of the Beitar Jerusalem soccer team were set on fire early Friday in an apparent arson attack, police said, a day after four of the club's fans were charged with anti-Muslim chanting at a recent game. Tensions have been bubbling ever since the team announced last month it would sign on two Muslim Chechen players — Zaur Sadayev and Gabriel Kadiev — in a break from the team's unofficial tradition of not signing Arabs or Muslims. Nice looking bunch.

Pretty much every soccer team, particularly in Europe, has a contingent of racist fans. That includes Israel's Beitar Jersualem. On Sunday, one of the team's two new Chechen Muslim players was booed "every time he touched the ball," which is par for the course. But when he actually scored a goal, hundreds of members of "La Familia" — a hardcore, right-wing group of Beitar Jerusalem fans — walked out. But they're not racist!

“The reaction to the Muslim players being here is not racist,” insisted 19-year-old Akeeva, a Beitar fan. “But the club’s existence is under threat. Beitar is a symbol for the whole country.”

Jacob, another fan, agrees, “It’s just a matter of being Arab [by which he means Muslim]. It’s not racism, they just shouldn’t be here. Beitar Jerusalem has always been a clean club, but now it’s being destroyed – many of the other players are thinking of leaving because of the Muslim players being here.”

An obsession with racial purity ... where have we heard that before?

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Photo: Bernat Armangue/AP