Hapoel Tel Aviv began preparing for life in the National League on Sunday after suffering relegation from the top flight a day earlier.
(photo credit: DANNY MAARON)
Six years after playing in the Champions League group stage, Hapoel Tel Aviv is getting used to the fact it will be facing the likes of Hapoel Marmorek in the National League next season.
Apart from one season (1989/90), Hapoel has spent its entire history playing in the top flight. But it faces a humbling experience in 2017/18 after being relegated for the second time in club history on Saturday, only managing a 1-1 draw against Hapoel Ra’anana to end the campaign in last place.
After a tumultuous season during which it was deducted nine points for going into administration, exchanged owners and guided by three different head coaches, Hapoel entered its final match with its fate out of its hands. But it couldn’t even take care of its part of the deal on Saturday, with Hapoel Ashkelon surviving at its expense, and will have to rebuild itself almost from scratch this summer.
Less than a handful of players are set to remain at the club, which has won eight championships and 10 State Cups in its illustrious history, with its last league title coming only seven years ago after which it went on to qualify for the Champions League.
The ownership group led by the Nisanov brothers took over the club in January when it was already in a dire state. While the new owners hoped the team would manage to maintain its Premier League status, they are ready to meet the challenge ahead.
“We came to the club as there was no one else who wanted it other than us and it would have been liquidated,” said Itzik Nisanov. “We don’t regret that decision.
We knew what we were getting into.
Many mistakes were made at the club, but I promise we will do things differently.
“I promise the fans that we will build an attractive squad that will earn promotion next season. Hapoel Tel Aviv will bounce back from this.”
Nahariya will finish in sixth or seventh, while Rishon will be no higher than sixth and no lower than eighth.