The Israeli sports scene is abuzz Tuesday with the news of Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Nahyan’s blockbuster purchase of Jerusalem’s famed Beitar Football Club. The billionaire Emirati businessman and member of the royal family paid 300 million shekels (about $92 million) to acquire 50% of the Israeli capital’s team, one of the most storied franchises in the nation, and will insert his son, Mohamed Bin Hamad Bin Khalifa, as his representative in the team’s front office. In an ironic twist of fate, the historic deal will turn Beitar FC into the first major Israeli club owned by an Arab, after decades in which the franchise refused to sign Arab players. The team’s controversial unofficial policy, dictated mostly by threats of boycott from the racist extremes of its rabid fan base, has drawn rebuke from other soccer franchises and Israeli lawmakers, though no punishment has ever been handed down. The deal struck between ownership and the Abu Dhabi mogul comes on the heels of the normalization agreements signed in September by Israel and the United Arab Emirates.
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