VIDEO - Arcadi Gaydamak, owner of the Beitar Jerusalem football club, says he has no intention of backing down on his plan to bring in two Muslim players from Chechen club Terek Grozny - Zaur Sadayev, 23, and Gabriel Kadiev, 19 – despite objections voiced by the team's fans.
Video courtesy of jn1.tv
Gaydamak was cursed by thousands of fans during Beitar Jerusalem's match against Bnei Yehuda Tel Aviv at the Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem on Saturday.
The harsh accusations against the club owner were accompanied by racist chants against his plan to add Muslim players to the team. The fans held a sign reading, "Beitar will be pure forever."
Arcadi, are the players from Chechnya on their way to Beitar?
"Absolutely," Gaydamak says. "The two players from Chechnya are coming to Beitar. As far as I'm concerned, there is no difference between a Jewish player and a Muslim player.
"We must look at things professionally, we must treat them nicely and fairly. There have always been good relations between the Muslims in Russia and the Caucasus and the Jews."
Beitar fans during Saturday's match (Photo: Haim Zach)
But many Beitar supporters are not interested in this move.
"As far as I'm concerned, bringing the players to Israel is the best response to the fans' behavior. Beitar's fans must understand that Muslims always helped Jews everywhere."
Does Beitar need these players?
"Our team needs reinforcement – so they will come to us. Why not?"
Are you determined to bring in the Muslim players?
"I would like to remind everyone that Jerusalem is a symbolic capital of fellowship between all people, so there is no reason why Jews and Muslims should not live in peace, especially in a soccer team."
Thousands of fans cursed you during the match against Bnei Yehuda.
"I can say that the best response to anyone protesting in such a way is to bring the players here. Those fans are probably trying to create a conflict, but we will fight this phenomenon.
"Beitar hasn't had Muslims until now, and there is definitely room for that. I will likely write the Chechens an official letter, that Beitar is interested in those two players. We will discuss it everywhere.
"If anyone in Chechnya has heard anything else about the fans' protest, we'll apologize and invited Sadayev and Kadiev to Beitar in any event."
Arcadi Gaydamak during visit to Chechnya (Photo: Assaf Shaked, Beitar Jerusalem)
Meanwhile, Beitar coach Eli Cohen was caught in a slip of the tongue Saturday, when he said that there was a difference between Arab Muslims and European Muslims.
"I don't understand the fans who don't want to see a Muslim player in Beitar," he said. "There are a billion Muslims in the world and we must learn how to live with them. There is a difference between a European Muslim and an Arab Muslim, and the fans here have a problem with Arabs living in the Middle East.
"I didn't even know the players were Muslim. I understand the problem and I hope that with the help of the board of directors, they'll do what needs to be done."
Beitar's supporters, however, have stressed throughout the years that they would not have a Muslim player wear the club's uniform.
One fan noted, "This will happen over my dead body. We won't accept it. Every second they're on the field we'll drive them mad until they ask to leave."
It should be noted that Muslim players have worn Beitar's uniform in the past, including Viktor Pacha of Albania. Nigerian defender Ibrahim Nadala left the team after being verbally harassed by fans.
Nadav Tzantziper contributed to this report