First and Last: This time Arkadi has gone too far

The Russian rtycoon has pumped millions of shekels into Betar but he has created a confused atmosphere where hardly anyone knows what he wants.

By JEREMY LAST
December 28, 2006 14:59
2 minute read.

It is a year and a half since Arkadi Gaydamak bought Betar, a symbol of this city. He may have pumped millions of shekels into the club, but he has created a confused atmosphere where hardly anyone - players, coaches, management - seems to have any idea what they are doing, what they are aiming for, and most importantly, what he wants. The team may now be top of the league, but that has more to do with the low quality of the rest of the Israeli premier league rather than the high quality of the Jerusalem side. Betar has employed six coaches since the start of last season (in August 2005) and ended up with a former Betar player who isn't exactly European-quality, and who after nearly two months in the job still can't work out what his best starting 11 is. And things definitely came to a head this week. On Sunday, Gaydamak sacked club chairman Vladimir Shklar, who had previously headed the Jerusalem Municipality's sports department and joined Betar when Gaydamak bought the team. When the following day Shklar was replaced by Eli Arazi, a former police commander who immediately admitted he isn't really interested in soccer, you would think the owner would have a good explanation. Shklar had been the person Gaydamak brought in to run the day-to-day affairs at Betar. Now, even though the team is at the top of the league, Gaydamak has decided that this is not good enough. Dressed in his customary dark suit, the man accused of being involved in illegal arms deals with Angola spoke to reporters from the national media on Monday in his usual halting English. Here is Gaydamak's reasoning as to why Shklar was told to go (all said in one long breath): "After one year of work we did a conclusion (sic) that normally everything is good in the team, we have good players, we have good coach (sic) and we are one of the first five team (sic) in the league and I think this is not enough and to obtain this better result we should provide this spirit of proudness (sic) to the coach and to the players." Excuse me? Have I missed something here? Once you get past the appalling grammar, it is still incredibly difficult to work out what this man is talking about and what he wants from Betar. How Shklar was supposed to instill a "spirit of proudness" is anyone's guess. Over the last year and a half he has caused four coaches to leave: Eli Ohana, Ton Caanen, Luis Fernandez and Ossie Ardiles, as well as club manager Avraham Levi and scout Dudu Dahan. With his obvious lack of soccer knowledge, his decision to sack anyone he feels like and justify it by saying that he thinks the team isn't good enough should cause an uproar. Shklar laid it out, plain and clear on Sunday. "My vision and Gaydamak's were not the same," he said after he was given the boot. "Each of us had different plans for Betar. Gaydamak wanted things to happen from one moment to the next. I thought that things aren't built in a day and that we needed to work according to a plan." Betar may even win the league this season, but when Gaydamak finally walks away, the soccer fans in the Holy City will realize that all he has left is one big mess.


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