Israeli soccer official who said he would not sign Arab player resigns


JERUSALEM (JTA) — An official for the Beitar Jerusalem soccer team resigned after saying in an interview that he would not sign an Arab player to his squad.

Eli Cohen had been the team’s adviser for only 10 days when he resigned Wednesday. Some reports said he was fired. It was his fourth stint with the club in recent years.

Cohen told the Israeli daily newspaper Yediot Acharonot that he would not hire an Arab player because “I’m a realist. I experienced firsthand what happened when Muslim players came five years ago, and therefore I would not take a Muslim player into Beitar.”

Five years ago two Chechen players were signed to the team, causing an uproar among fans and players.

Cohen pointed out in the interview that he has had many Arab and Muslim players on teams he previously managed.

“Anyone stupid enough to label me a racist because of what I just said can say what he wants,” he said.

Beitar Jerusalem is the only Israeli team to never field a Muslim Arab.

Chairman Eli Ohana received an award last month on behalf of the team from President Reuven Rivlin for combating racism during the 2016-17 season. The club was cited for its work with youth and establishing a forum to deal with incitement and racism.

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