Israeli Soccer Club Changes Name to 'Beitar Trump Jerusalem' in Honor of Embassy Move

The Beitar Jerusalem Football Club, an Israeli soccer team, announced Sunday they will honor U.S. President Donald Trump’s controversial effort to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem. The club owners decided to change the name of the team to “Beitar Trump Jerusalem.”

The team announced the change just one day before the Trump-backed move of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. "The chairmen of the club, the owner Eli Tabib and the executive manager Eli Ohana have decided to add to the club's title the name of the American President who made history, and from now on will be called Beitar Trump Jerusalem. We have the greatest love for the president, and we will win," the team’s Sunday statement reads.

"For 70 years, Jerusalem has been awaiting international recognition, until President Donald Trump, in a courageous move, recognized Jerusalem as the eternal capital of Israel,” the Beitar statement continued. “President Trump has shown courage and true love of the Israeli people and their capital, and these days other countries are following his lead in giving Jerusalem its rightful status."



Formed in 1936, the Beitar Jersualem Football Club's ownership has ties to the conservative Likud political party, led today by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who supports Trump’s move. “President Trump is making history. We are deeply grateful for his bold decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to move the embassy there tomorrow!” Netanyahu tweeted Sunday, following up his May 12 Twitter post, “Thank you President Trump for keeping your promise to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and to move your embasssy [sic] here.”

The Beitar Jerusalem club, which has a controversial history, said it’s “happy to honor the president for his love and support” by adding his name to the team. Much like the move of the embassy, the team’s decision to insert Trump’s name has drawn many high-profile critics.

Haaretz senior columnist Chemi Shalev labeled the team a “bastion of anti-Arab racism” on Twitter as several Israeli leaders pointed to the 2016 documentary “Forever Pure.” The film chronicles how the the Beitar football club had previously been the only team in the Israeli Premier League to have never signed an Arab player in a country that is about 20 percent Arab. The club’s fanbase became livid after a secretive move by Russian oligarch and owner Arcadi Gaydamak brought on two Muslims from Chechnya to the team during the 2012 season. An anti-Muslim campaign began that saw Beitar Jerusalem fans holding up massive banners with phrases such as, “Forever Pure. No Arabs.”

Read more: In Pictures: U.S. Embassy Move to Jerusalem Sparks Violent Clashes Between Israeli Troops and Palestinian Protesters

The signing of the Chechen Muslims led to the harassment of Zaur Sadayev and Dzhabrail Kadiyev, racist in-game chants and even arsonists burning the club’s offices in 2013. Another incident saw several arrests after men came to the club’s practice field wearing a “Mohammed is 100% dead” t-shirt. Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who told The Guardian he was a Beitar fan for more than four decades, said he would no longer attend matches due to the “racist” fans.

RTR3DHO0 The signing of the Chechen Muslims led to the harassment of Zaur Sadayev and Dzhabrail Kadiyev, racist in-game chants and even arsonists burning the club’s offices in 2013. Reuters

Although Beitar Jerusalem’s “Trump” name change was announced Sunday, they will need approval from the Israel Football Association to make it official.