(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Betar Jerusalem will hope to salvage a modicum of
pride from its disappointing season when it faces Hapoel Ra'anana in
the Toto Cup final on Tuesday night.
team from the capital has fallen from grace in recent months. Betar is
currently in sixth position in the Premier League but is well out of
the title race, a full 23 points behind league leader Maccabi Haifa.
On Saturday Jerusalem was lucky to escape with a 0-0 draw away
to struggling Hapoel Petah Tikva and the few away fans that made the
trip could be heard calling for coach Itzhak Schum to quit throughout
However, Schum has remained steadfast in his commitment to
Betar and is expecting the team to focus all its effort on winning
Israel's second cup competition on Tuesday.
"Every final is important and it is important for us
to be here," he said. "Winning titles is part of our tradition and we
will do everything we can to win the Toto Cup, the only title which we
haven't won in recent years."
The last time the 2007 and 2008 Premier League winner won the
competition was in 1998. Ra'anana, meanwhile, will be appearing in its
first cup final and is relishing the prospect of facing up against
another of Israeli soccer's heavyweights after knocking Maccabi Haifa
out in the semifinals.
will give all due respect to Betar but we will do everything we can to
win like we did against Haifa," said Ra'anana captain Shaul Smadja. "We
are clearly motivated for the game."
Pride is only one aspect of the motivation for the clubs to
take the trophy. The Toto Cup is one of the biggest paydays in Israeli
sports, with the winner receiving NIS 1.1 million and the runner-up NIS
Ra'anana, one of the smallest clubs in the country, will welcome the cash as a significant boost to its coffers.
And the fact that the money is also important to Betar
illustrates just how much has changed at the club in the 14 months
since owner Arkadi Gaydamak left for Russia.
Sponsor Guma Aguiar donated $4 million to Betar Jerusalem at
the start of the season, but his continued support is less than
guaranteed, especially since he was forcibly entered into a psychiatric
hospital earlier this month.
Jerusalem captain Aviram Bruchian displayed an aura of
confidence on Monday, saying the atmosphere among the squad is as
strong as it was before the semifinal victory over Maccabi Tel Aviv.
"We're coming to win," he warned.
Betar won 3-1 when the two teams met in the league back in February at Teddy Stadium.