Beitar Jerusalem have strong links to the country's political right, and the club's hardcore supporters — known as “La Familia” — are staunch protectors of their values. As such, there was outrage in January when the Israeli Premier League side signed striker Zaur Sadayev and defender Dzhabrail Kadiyev, who are both Chechen Muslims.
The decision by Beitar president Arkady Gaydamak (father of not-very-popular-on-the-south-coast-of-England former Portsmouth owner Alexandre) provoked so much displeasure among La Familia that the clubs offices were burnt down when they signed.
Sadayev and Kadiyev, who are two of only five non-Israeli players ever to play for the club, are routinely booed and jeered by home fans during matches at Teddy Stadium. During Sunday night's match with Maccabi Netanya, 23-year-old Sadayev scored his first goal for the club. The Independent describe what happened next:
Beitar’s best player, the Argentinian Dario Fernandez, jumped on Sadayev’s shoulders and celebrated with him, but the reaction in the crowd was confused to say the least. In one stand supporters screamed with elation, but behind the goal, in the La Familia end, hundreds walked out.
Many La Familia sympathizers have been quick to insist their walk-out was not racist. Using the same logic as "I'm not sexist but women shouldn't have the same rights as men," a fan said:
“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.”
Sadayev was substituted after 73 minutes and reportedly received a standing ovation from the fans, presumably because all the prejudiced ones had gone home.
In a way, it is wrong to subjugate the fans who wish to protect the traditions of their club. Athletic Bilbao, for example, continue to operate a "cantera" policy that only allows them to field players of Basque descent. Some have issues with the political implications of this, but they are not branded racists. However, walking out of a sporting event because a participant who aided your team has religious ideologies that conflict with your own seems alarmingly bigoted.