independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Football club targeted by arsonists

The blaze comes a day after four fans were charged with anti-Muslim chanting during a game

The offices of the Beitar Jerusalem football team have been set on fire in an apparent arson attack, police said.

The incident comes a day after four of the club's fans were charged with anti-Muslim chanting at a recent game.

The attack also followed an announcement by police that it would begin deploying undercover units and beefing up police presence at games to track down those fans involved in racist chants.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said Friday's attack left extensive damage to the team's administrative offices next to its training field. The office walls were charred, and team trophies were scattered about.

No-one was hurt in the attack, and police are searching for suspects.

Rosenfeld pledged the police would use "every legal means in order to prevent the continual racism, which is basically destroying the club".

In a statement to reporters, Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat said those responsible for the attack were "not fans, but criminals".

Beitar Jerusalem is known to have fans hostile to Muslims and Arabs and in the past fans have been punished on occasion for chanting anti-Muslim slurs at games.

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.

At a league game in January, spectators protesting over the decision unfurled large banners with anti-Muslim undertones, drawing harsh rebuke from Israel's president, Jerusalem's mayor and other officials. On Thursday, four fans were indicted.

Press Association

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