Omer Atzili .
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Less than five weeks after playing its final match of the 2014/15 season, Beitar Jerusalem gets 2015/16 underway on Thursday when it visits Ordabasy Shymkent in Kazakhstan in the first leg of the Europa League first qualifying round.
Beitar will be playing in Europe for the first time since 2008 after ending last season in fourth place.
“Ordabasy is a strong team but we believe in ourselves,” said new coach Slobodan Drapic, who will be guiding Jerusalem for the first time. “We will do our best to record a result which will allow us to decide the tie at home.”
Beitar hosts the second leg at Teddy Stadium next Thursday.
While Beitar will have to shake off the off-season rust, Ordabasy is already well into its campaign, currently sitting in fifth place in its domestic league after 18 matches.
Beitar is still building its squad, announcing the signing of Romanian Vlad Morar on Wednesday.
Should Beitar overcome its Kazakh opponent over the two legs, it will play strong Belgian outfit Charleroi in the second qualifying round.
Hapoel Beersheba will begin its participation in the Europa League in the second qualifying round where it will face Thun of Switzerland.
Ironi Kiryat Shmona will enter the competition in the third qualifying round.
Meanwhile, new Hapoel Tel Aviv coach Cesar Mendiondo declared on Wednesday that the team’s main goal will be to win the championship.
Hapoel only managed a disappointing eighth-place finish last season, but is undergoing a complete overhaul this summer. The club has already signed 14 players, with new owner, Amir Kabiri, quickly making his mark.
“We are very happy to be here,” said Mendiondo. “This is a new era for the club and we all feel it. We want to lead Hapoel back to the top and of course our main goal is to win the championship.”
Kabiri preached for patience.
“We have done a lot of work behind the scenes in recent months,” explained the 34-year-old Kabiri. “I believe that in the long run we will reach our targets. We have patience, even if it takes a year or two. We are here to stay. I really believe in this club. It has massive marketing and financial potential. It is about time someone does something with it. I am here as a fan of the club. We will methodically rebuild the team and we will reach our goals.”