betar maccabi empty teddy 248 88.
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
More than 1,000 Betar Jerusalem fans did their best to create an illusion of normality at the team's first training session of the season at its Bayit Ve'gan training ground on Sunday.
However, despite the traditional supporters' pitch invasion and carrying of players on shoulders, the atmosphere was far from regular at the shortened session.
All the players may have agreed to wage cuts of up to 50 percent, but the team is still without any guarantees that owner Arkadi Gaydamak or anyone else will provide funding for the next year.
And while the entire squad of players turned out on Sunday, the team is also without a permanent coach. Last year's coach Reuven Atar had said earlier this month that he would be willing to coach the team without pay until the situation is resolved, but it was former assistant coach Sergei Tartiak who led Sunday's session.
Club chairman Itzik Kornfein said: "I am very happy we have finally started to train. We have a difficult period ahead of us, but I am happy everyone turned out and most of them wanted to get back to training hard for the upcoming season."
Appearing to quash rumors that they were leaving the club, star Betar striker Barak Itzhaki and defender Arik Benado both took part in the training on Sunday to the delight of the fans.
In addition, all the players who were on loan to other clubs last season, including Kobi Moyal who spent time at Bnei Yehuda and Junior Viza who played at Hapoel Petah Tikva, were there on Sunday.
"I am happy to return home after a good season and now I need to also do well here. I am not running away from my responsibility, I love to stand up to pressure," said Moyal, who hopes to have a significant role to play this season.
Center back Shimon Gershon, who had also been expected to leave Betar this summer said the team was excited about the preseason training.
"We all came here excited," he said. "We knew there wouldn't be any real training today but we receive this with love. There's only one time each year that the fans are allowed to do what they want and that is today."
Also at the training were South America pair Cristian Alvarez and Dario Fernandez, who have yet to move from Betar even though club is apparently looking for a buyer.
The season will begin on August 1 with the Toto Cup while the Premier League kicks off on August 22.
The situation at Betar has remained unsure throughout the summer since Gaydamak failed to commit financially to the club but at the same time prevented it from going into bankruptcy.
Brazilian businessman Guma Aguiar has said he is interested in taking over from Gaydamak, but only if Betar goes into bankruptcy, as he does not want to inherit any of the club's pre-existing debts.
Jerusalem was forced to give up its place in the UEFA Europa League as it was unable to provide the required financial guarantees.