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Can Tabib be worse than Betar’s current mess?
By ALLON SINAI
11/13/2012
Sinai Says: You would have thought Eli Tabib would have had enough of local soccer, but he keeps coming back for more.
 
On the one hand, Betar Jerusalem has found itself searching for a financial savior time and again in recent years, forcing it to battle bankruptcy every offseason.

On the other, we are talking about Eli Tabib.

You would have thought Tabib would have had enough of local soccer considering his recent experience with Hapoel Tel Aviv, but the 56-year-old Kfar Saba native just keeps coming back for more.

Perhaps it is a corrective emotional experience he is searching for at Betar.

After all, how else can you explain going from Hapoel to its sworn arch-enemy within months?

Hapoel fans made Tabib’s final few months at the club a living hell, protesting outside his house, as well as at the team’s matches, while also harassing his poor wife.

Tabib initially vowed he would never leave, if only to spite those who swore to chase him out of town.

However, he eventually comprehended the impossible situation he found himself in and sold the club to former Knesset member Haim Ramon in July.

Now he has his sights set on Betar, with his lawyers set to meet those of current owner Arkadi Gaydamak on Wednesday with the intention of finalizing an agreement.

Tabib made a point of attending the club’s recent matches, including last month’s 3-2 victory over Hapoel Tel Aviv, and Betar is desperate for his money, which he will only be able to inject next summer, a full year after he cut ties with Hapoel.

However, you can’t help but wonder if Tabib is in fact the type of owner Betar needs.

After leaving Hapoel Kfar Saba in complete ruin following his 16 years (1994-2009) as boss, Tabib officially bought a 50 percent stake at Hapoel to join Moni Harel as a co-owner in the summer of 2010.

It all began to go downhill when Tabib seized full control of the club in the summer of 2011, with Hapoel operating without a chairman, CEO and spokesperson at one stage following their simultaneous resignation in protest of the owner’s conduct.

Hapoel fans united in a campaign to oust Tabib, but it took time until he finally understood that a soccer club is unlike any other business and threw in the towel.

Nevertheless, it seems that he learned nothing from his time at Hapoel considering his senseless decision to attend the showdown between Betar and the Reds two weeks ago.

Tabib added an unnecessary point of friction between two sets of supporters who already staunchly detested each other, and did so simply to promote his own interests.

Assuming a deal is reached, he will arrive at Betar looking to prove all his doubters wrong, but it remains to be seen how much money he will in fact invest.

Hapoel’s income from its 2010/11 Champions League campaign allowed Tabib to run the club without using almost any of his own funds, a privilege he will not enjoy in Jerusalem.

Betar would love to have an owner of the likes of Maccabi Haifa’s Jacob Shahar or Maccabi Tel Aviv’s Mitch Goldhar, but in its current situation it can’t really afford to be picky.

There are hardly millionaires standing in line looking to flush their money down the drain of an Israeli soccer club, especially one with a racist reputation like Betar.

After seven years, Gaydamak announced in June that he no longer wants any involvement with the club, saying that he will transfer the ownership of Betar to anyone willing to take on its debts and financial commitments.

According to Gaydamak, he invested over NIS 378 million in the club, although he only budgeted Betar sporadically over the past three years.

Chairman Itzik Kornfein was left with the painstaking task of trying to keep the club afloat with the likes of former sponsor Guma Aguiar and the sale of star players.

There was of course also the short, yet unforgettable, episode starring American clowns Dan Adler and Adam Levin, who cynically bailed out on the club after already coming to an agreement to purchase it in July 2011.

Betar fans have seen it all and thousands of them combined forces this past summer, forking out over NIS 1,000 each before eventually transferring the cash-stricken club NIS 2.1 million in return for three of nine places on the directorate.

However, the supporters understand that they only provided a short-term solution for what is a long-term problem, and the vast majority seem to be in favor of Tabib taking charge.

District Court Judge Amnon Straschnov may have ruled Tabib to be unfit to own a soccer club way back in August 2000 due to his criminal record, but at this point there seems to be only one answer to Betar’s unenviable dilemma.

A Tabib takeover is far from ideal, but as things currently stand, it is the lesser of two evils, one which Betar will just have to live with.

allon@jpost.com
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