The Last Word: Dedication's what you need

For many of those involved in Israeli soccer the Toto Cup is at best an opportunity for training matches, at worst an unwanted hindrance.

January 22, 2010 08:49
3 minute read.
The Last Word: Dedication's what you need

soccer 88. (photo credit: )

For many of those involved in Israeli soccer the Toto Cup is at best an opportunity for training matches, at worst an unwanted hindrance.

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However, for fans of Hapoel Ra'anana, next week's final of Israel's second cup competition represents the culmination of years of dedication - an example of the true worth of supporting a soccer team, especially a lower ranked club.

On Tuesday Ra'anana will play in a cup final for the first time in its 38-year history. Only a few hundred Hapoel supporters are expected to make the short trip to National Stadium in Ramat Gan to see their team face the mighty Betar Jerusalem, but, win or lose, it will be a night to remember for many of them.

Supporting any sports team is not an easy task. Even fans of soccer giants such as Manchester United and Real Madrid have endured long periods of boredom and disappointment.

Of course this doesn't compare to the frustration fans of smaller clubs go through.

Soccer matches can often leave the spectator wondering why he or she bothered to make the trip to sit in a cold, damp stadium for two hours and watch 11 men, who supposedly represent their club, fail to provide much more than a few moments of excitement.

The answer lies in one word: hope.

During the hours of letdowns and misfortunes a fan will dream of the moment when his team makes it to the pinnacle of sports, or even of the least relevant tournament in the country.

It is those moments which make it all worthwhile.

When I was 11-years-old I made a choice which had a significant impact on my life. Instead of supporting one of the big clubs I decided to follow AFC Bournemouth, the small team which played in the seaside town where my grandparents lived.

At the time Bournemouth was on the up. The side had just been promoted from the old Third Division to the Second Division as champions and was coached by a young up and coming manager by the name of Harry Redknapp.

In those days, before the Internet, it wasn't easy following a team located a two-hour drive away. But I did my best to go to games when the team played in London and would drag my Dad to Dean Court to watch the Cherries when we were down in Bournemouth.

AFCB's period of success only lasted a couple of years, and in 1990 the team was relegated back to Division Three.

That summer Redknapp was injured in a terrible car crash while in Italy for the World Cup and he decided to take a break from soccer.

Since then Bournemouth has bobbed between the Fourth and Third Division (now re-branded as League Two and League One), with few periods of real success.

But the efforts of going to games in the middle of nowhere and watching hours of poor quality soccer were made worth it by the few highlights.

One of the best came in 1998 when Bournemouth made it to the final of the Auto Windscreens Shield, a competition for lower league clubs. After defeating Walsall over two legs the Cherries were given the chance to play Grimsby at the famous Wembley Stadium.

It felt like half the population of Bournemouth had traveled to London to back the team, and a wonderful party atmosphere filled the ground, which was about two thirds full.

Unfortunately this was the time of the dreaded golden goal, and after the game went into extra time Grimsby scored a winner which broke the hearts of the thousands of Bournemouth fans.

But the trip to Wembley will ever be etched in the memories of so many.

Local sports is about cultivating a community spirit, something that only comes with years of faithful devotion through thick and thin.

It is this commitment which keeps sports running around the world and illustrates the meaning of the real fan.

Whatever the result on Tuesday, Hapoel Ra'anana fans will undoubtedly enjoy their evening in the limelight, and it is this which is thoroughly deserved.

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