Maccabi Tel Aviv fans let down 311.
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
It’s as if something has changed in the club’s DNA.
As if some sort of
mutation has turned losing into something acceptable at the most storied team in
Maccabi Tel Aviv’s 3-1 defeat to Hapoel Tel Aviv on
Sunday extended its winless streak in derbies to 10 matches, with the
yellow-and-blue not beating its arch-rival in the Premier League since March
Sunday’s result also saw leagueleader Hapoel open a seven-point gap
over its cross-town rival, which has lost three straight matches and has won
just one of its past seven league encounters.
However, far more
concerning for the record-19-time Israeli champion should be the way its fans
accepted Sunday’s painful defeat almost without a murmur.
The club's management, coaching staff and players can delude themselves that Maccabi's supporters' quick and quiet exit from Bloomfield Stadium had something to do with the fans maturing or discovering a new-found patience.
However, the reaction of the yellowand- blue’s faithful is,
more than anything else, a testament to the hopelessness that now engulfs a club
that for all its past success has only won one championship in the last 15
There is only a certain amount of heartache a fan can take before
desperation takes over. Sunday’s derby defeat may have pushed many over that
threshold of misery.
Maccabi’s supporters have experienced more than
their fair share of disappointment over the last few years, but the team’s
recent struggles were made all the more frustrating by the yellow-and-blue’s
excellent start to the season.
It seemed that coach Moti Ivanir had found
the right combination between experience and innocence, giving the products of
the club’s youth department plenty of opportunities while blending them wisely
with expensive recruits.
Maccabi won five of its first six league games
to lead the standings and stunned Greek giant Panathinaikos to reach the group
stage of the Europa League for the first time in club history.
was abundant at Kiryat Shalom, but the wheels have since come off a club that
used to be the Rolls Royce of Israeli soccer, with Maccabi picking up just five
of a possible 21 points from its last seven league matches, while suffering
humbling defeats in the Europa League.
Maccabi has only found the back of
the net once in its last four league encounters, with Barak Itzhaki’s goal in
the derby defeat little consolation for Ivanir’s team.
balance that led Maccabi to success at the start of the season deteriorated into
total chaos once the defeats began to pile up, raising the pressure to an
Owner Mitch Goldhar steadied the ship somewhat by
holding a press conference on Saturday and assuring the reporters on hand that
Ivanir is going nowhere.
But it seems that all he has managed to do is
lower expectations even further for a club that in recent years has begun every
season talking up its chances of winning a championship, only to completely
dismiss its prospects with the campaign not even close to its halfway
“We are at the beginning of what I consider to be my investment,”
Goldhar said on Saturday. “I don’t appraise my investments after such a short
period of time. This is something that takes time. What we have been going
through lately is difficult but it is also normal. We are all learning.
Discipline, proper attitude, work ethic and lifestyle are all things that need
to be inculcated into the culture of Maccabi.
“It is part of the long
term best interests of the organization. I’m confident it will pay
“If we take the season in the right way I will not be
disappointed even if we don’t win the championship. The way is more important.
The results will come.”
Goldhar admitted that both he and Ivanir have
made mistakes and are learning from them. But Maccabi fans must be wondering if
they need to make every mistake in the book before the team finally
There should be little doubt that Maccabi supporters are
extremely fortunate to have Goldhar as an owner, and I personally believe that
Ivanir should be given at least until the end of the season to work with the
squad he has built at Kiryat Shalom.
However, if Sunday’s showdown showed
us anything, it is not that Hapoel has a far better team than Maccabi, but that
the yellow-and-blue enters every match expecting the worst to happen, and
unsurprisingly, it often does.
Underachievement has become the trademark
of the club once known for its relentless pursuit of trophies.
are proven otherwise, the fans will presume that the downfall is always around
the corner. They have become so accustomed to disappointment that when it
arrives – as it did on Sunday – they just drop their heads, close their eyes and
dream of better days.
No wonder they no longer
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