The Blizzard: Jerusalem Syndrome

beitar fans
Beitar Jerusalem fans at the Teddy Stadium, 2011 ©James Montague

Whilst I was writing my first book, When Friday Comes, I spent quite a bit of time passing through Israel and soon understood that Israeli football was a pretty good mirror on Israeli society. One of the most fascinating clubs is Beitar Jerusalem, a club steeped in ultra nationalism. An Arab had never played for the team and when it was suggested that one did, the fans rioted, especially its ultra group, La Familia.

Equally as fraught was the club’s ownership. For a while the club was owned by Arkadi Gaydamak, a Russian born Israeli citizen who made his fortune in France but who was wanted on an international arrest warrant for alleged gun running during the Angolan civil war. He bought the club, in his own words, for propaganda purposes and hoped to launch a political career. He came third in the Jerusalem mayoral elections and lost interest in the club for a while.

(In the end, he was sent to jail in France, but the gun running charges were dropped.)

Enter Guma Aguiar, a playboy millionaire from Brazil, raised in the US who had made a fortune thanks to the discovery of a natural gas field. He subsequently sunk millions in to Jerusalem, its basketball team and Beitar.

But then the wheels fell off. He was sectioned, embroiled in a vicious court case and then, eventually vanished, presumed dead. Or was he?

I wrote about the story of Guma Aguiar for The Blizzard, which you can read here.

Since I wrote the story there has been an update. Aguiar was declared dead in both Israel and Florida. But his body has never been found.



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