Despite plenty of off-field distractions, Beitar battles for title

Beitar enters Saturday’s championship playoff opener against Maccabi Netanya at Teddy Stadium in second place, just one point behind leader Beersheba, with Maccabi Tel Aviv a further point back.

By
March 16, 2018 00:24
2 minute read.
Beitar Jerusalem striker Gaetan Varenne.

Beitar Jerusalem striker Gaetan Varenne, who was revealed on March 15th, 2018 to have allegedly been seen sexually exploiting a helpless woman.. (photo credit: DANNY MARON)

While it is of little surprise that Hapoel Beersheba and Maccabi Tel Aviv are once more challenging for the Premier League championship entering the final stretch to the season, few experts predicted Beitar Jerusalem would be among the main contenders so late in the campaign.

With head coach Sharon Mimer being sacked four days before the start of league play, Eli Cohen resigning from his position as professional adviser after just 10 days and current coach Benny Ben-Zaken being hounded by the club’s fans from his first day on the job, Beitar’s season seemed to be unraveling from the start.

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Nevertheless, Beitar enters Saturday’s championship playoff opener against Maccabi Netanya at Teddy Stadium in second place, just one point behind leader Beersheba, with Maccabi Tel Aviv a further point back.

Beitar’s players have managed to block out off-field distractions throughout the season and will need to do so once more to overcome Netanya.

The team’s striker Gaetan Varenne revealed on Thursday that he is one of the players allegedly seen sexually exploiting a helpless woman in a video taken several years ago that spread through social media over recent days.

Varenne, who told his teammates that he is ashamed of his behavior, appears in the video with three of his then teammates at Hapoel Jerusalem.

Police announced that it is looking into the matter, while the Israel Football Association denounced Varenne’s conduct but said that it is legally unable to discipline the player.

Ben-Zaken said on Thursday that he hadn’t seen the video and added that Varenne will play against Netanya.

After each team completed 26 matches, the league was split into two ahead of this weekend.

The top six teams will face each other twice more for 10 matches each to determine the championship.

The bottom eight sides play one another one more time for seven games each to decide the battle against relegation.

Beitar is targeting its fifth win in six matches on Saturday, aiming to move up to first place and put pressure on Beersheba and Maccabi Tel Aviv who don’t play until Sunday. Beersheba hosts Bnei Yehuda, while Maccabi welcomes Hapoel Haifa, which is in fourth place, five points off the top.

The relegation playoffs also get under way on Saturday, with rock-bottom Hapoel Acre, which is nine points from safety, visiting Maccabi Haifa. Hapoel Ashkelon which occupies the second relegation spot, sitting four points behind Ashdod SC, goes to Ironi Kiryat Shmona. Ashdod visits Bnei Sakhnin.


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