Beitar Jerusalem is taking the relatively insignificant Toto Cup seriously, explained both coach Roni Levy and goalkeeper Itzmar Nitzan following the yellow-and-black’s 1-1 draw against Ashdod SC this week.
In fact, Beitar has been taking everything about the upcoming 2019/20 campaign with the highest regard –not just on the pitch but off it as well.
There is a renewed air of professionalism throughout the club from the top to bottom, and much of the credit for that goes to owner Moshe Hogeg, who took over the reins last season.
From the players’ dress when they leave the stadium following a game – making sure to wear one of their sponsor’s shirts to the facilities – to the GPS trackers the players are wearing, Beitar is a changed club.
However, it’s not just the players that have been effected, but rather the entire culture of the club, including Hogeg’s no-nonsense stance against the racism that has run rampant throughout the team’s so-called fan groups over the past decade.
Hogeg has stated unequivocally that there will be no such tolerance for this type of behavior. The hi-tech start-up guru has brought his approach from the business world to the soccer field and that’s a good thing.
Hogeg founded Mobli, a social mobile photo and video sharing website, in 2009 and today is the CEO of Sirin Labs. With his keen business acumen, there is no question that Beitar is in good hands, hands that understand the way of the world as we near 2020.
Yossi Benayoun was brought on to serve as Beitar’s sports director after retiring from active play last season. The “Diamond from Dimona” has years of experience at the highest levels from Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal to Maccabi Tel Aviv, where he also observed Jordi Cruyff change the culture of a club with the help of owner Mitch Goldhar.
Benayoun knows exactly what needs to be done to bring Jerusalem up to speed and compete with the top clubs, not only in Israel but Europe as well.
Levy returned to Israel after a spell in Cyprus for the third time in his career, but this time around it’s a whole new ballgame, with the likes of Hogeg and Benayoun backstage, as well as Eli Ohana, one of the club’s former stars and coaches who now serves as its president.
Levy now has the backing and the tools to take Beitar back to its glory days.
Moni Barush was appointed CEO of Beitar when Hogeg completed the purchase of the club and comes to the soccer world after many years of television and media experience, most recently at Channel 20.
As well, a new press officer was also named, with Assaf Nachum – who had been with Ma’ariv Online – was handed the post as Oshri Dudai, who had been in the role for a number of years, was promoted to become the club’s full-time manager.
It’s clear that Hogeg is laying the foundation for Beitar to reach the success that he has come to expect in the hi-tech world, but that also means he will want to see results on the pitch, and that’s why this year’s Toto Cup has taken on a heightened significance for Beitar.
Historically, the Toto Cup has been looked at by many clubs as an unimportant tournament that helps get the players in shape while coaching staffs can test players and formations to see what they will use over the course of the upcoming league season.
Maccabi Tel Aviv was the first team to change the attitude of its importance, as the yellow-and-blue management has always maintained that it is looking to win each and every title available to the club over the course of the season. Beitar has now bought into that same winning mentality, one that will go a long way as the club’s culture continues to evolve for the better.
Levy explained that the Toto Cup is certainly crucial to the team’s preseason preparation, but it also sets the tone for the upcoming campaign. For example, Jerusalem defeated Hapoel Tel Aviv and then made six changes to the starting lineup that featured against Ashdod just a few nights later. The reason so many different players were used was clear; there are plenty of new faces and Levy must see how the puzzle will come together as he goes into the season.
However, Levy also spoke about the respect he has for the competition itself after Beitar punched its ticket to the semifinals.
Nitzan also talked about how winning the cup would give Jerusalem a boost for the league season. With Hapoel Beersheba looming as not only Beitar’s opening league game but also its Toto Cup semifinal opponent on Sunday night, the ’keeper was asked which game he would prefer to win, to which he said, “I prefer to win every match.”
With that attitude firmly entrenched throughout the club, Beitar Jerusalem will go a long, long way.