With a new look, new coach and a few new players, but the same old fans, Betar Jerusalem kicked off its 2005/06 campaign on Wednesday.
The team's busy day included medical tests in the morning, followed by fittings for the players' travel suits to be worn overseas on the way to UEFA Cup matches and finally the season-opening practice, which like every year was overtaken by some 2,000 unruly fans with torches and smoke grenades.
Coach Ossie Ardiles got his first look at the squad, which included newcomers Shimon Gershon, Michael Zandberg and Toto Tamuz.
Before the practice, club chairman Vladimir Shklar hosted a press conference at Teddy Stadium where he unveiled the new team logo. Two months were spent preparing the logo, which is based upon a menora, like the previous version, but also includes a pair of lions, symbolizing Jerusalem. The lions are also meant to represent the players.
The branding company that came up with the logo plans to give Betar a new image, while keeping the team's many fans around the city and the country happy.
Shklar was visibly excited about the new logo and uniform, which he presented along with club captain and goalkeeper Itzik Korenfein.
"Today's a special day," he said. "I couldn't be this excited even if we were signing Ronaldinho."
On Thursday, the team will hold a training session in Sderot as a sign of solidarity with the southern town, which has been stricken by Kassam rockets.
Netanya appoints Gutman
Maccabi Netanya announced Wednesday that Eli Gutman will coach the club this season.
The rumor mill was working overtime at Netanya this summer after Daniel Jammer took over as owner. The original plan was to keep Reuven Attar on board as coach, but he soon decided to leave. Then Slovenian Joseph Valovic was briefly in the picture, and Dutchman Ton Caanen was hired and fired within a few days. Former Netanya stars Shalom Tikva and Benny Lamm were also considered and earlier this week Jammer and general manager Eyal Berkovic reportedly met with former Aston Villa boss John Gregory.
However, it was Gutman, who returns to Israel after a two-year stint in Cyprus with Enosis Neon Paralimni, who finally got the nod from Jammer. The three met in Ibiza, Spain, to conclude the deal.
"I'm glad that we've solved the coaching matter," Jammer told the club's Web site. "[Gutman] is a very good choice."
"As soon as we gave up on the idea of a foreign coach, Gutman was always our first choice that we kept secret," Bekovic said. "I'm glad to work with him at Maccabi Netanya."
"I'm aware of the rich history at Maccabi Netanya and I see Daniel Jammer's strong desire to build something good," Gutman said. "I've missed Israeli soccer during my time in Cyprus."
Gutman's career highlight in Israel was winning an historic championship with Hapoel Haifa.
Netanya will begin training next week.
Also on Wednesday, Netanya announced the signing of former Betar midfielder Mazua Ensombo to a one-year deal.