Sinai Says: Local soccer fans: be careful what you wish for

With Guma Aguiar also no longer around, Beersheba joins Betar Jerusalem and Netanya on a growing list of illustrious clubs facing an uncertain future.

March 3, 2010 05:53
3 minute read.
allon sinai

allon sinai. (photo credit: sinai)


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Hapoel Beersheba has long been a coaches’ graveyard, but the reckless behavior of the club’s fans cost them something far more valuable on Monday.

On-field managers can come and go, but wellmeaning owners in Israeli soccer are a dying breed which could well soon become extinct.

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After decades of financial struggles and numerous owners, Alona Barkat purchased Hapoel Beersheba in the summer of 2007, finally giving the long-suffering club good reason to feel optimistic about its future.

Just two-and-a-half years later, however, she announced that the actions of a vocal, yet small minority of the team’s supporters had left her with no real option but to leave the club at the end of the current season.

Beersheba supporters have long held a reputation for intolerance and unrealistic expectations, forcing countless coaches to leave Vasermil Stadium from a side exit-and only then with a police escort.

In the past decade alone, Beersheba has gone through 16 managers, and that’s without taking into account the coach who will replace Guy Azuri, who resigned from his position on Sunday.

Azuri was driven off the road by fans after Saturday’s disappointing 2-2 home draw with Ahi Nazareth, a violent denouement to months of hounding by disgruntled Beersheba enthusiasts.

Despite suffering from erratic form for much of the season, Azuri still leaves the side in a respectable eighth position in its first Premier League campaign in five years. However, some of the Beersheba faithful were convinced the team should have done much better, while also accusing Azuri of favoring expensive foreign imports instead of using local home-grown talent.

Azuri found himself in the same bind as his many predecessors – having to win immediately but not being given the freedom from the fans to bring in his own players.

As a result, he too failed to last very long at the club, but far more importantly, his resignation also triggered the departure of Barkat.

The first female owner in Israeli soccer made her fair share of mistakes since taking the reigns, the most significant of which was her lack of public support for her embattled coach. However, Barkat’s naivete should not be blamed for her eventual exit from the capital of the Negev.

 Unlike other former Premier League club owners– Arkadi Gaydamak for instance– Barkat well and truly treated the running of a soccer club as a philanthropic project and not as a means for advancing her personal objectives.

Barkat believed that by upgrading the club’s youth department and building a successful senior team she would be making a significant contribution to the entire south of Israel.

She never had any illusions of making money or gaining political popularity, but she also never dreamed that her employees would receive threats on their lives.

Unfortunately, the cruel reality came crashing down on her almost from the start and on Monday she announced she would pull the plug on her support of club at the end of the season.

Beersheba once more finds itself in a state of turmoil and the club’s devotees only have themselves to blame.

The fans are clearly entitled to vent their frustrations at the happenings at the club, but by crossing the line and resorting to violence to make their case, they are sentencing their beloved team to a heartbreaking fate.

Barkat’s announcement came less than 24 hours after Maccabi Netanya owner Daniel Jammer said he will be leaving the club at the end of the season because of his fans’ ungratefulness.

With Guma Aguiar also no longer around, Beersheba joins Betar Jerusalem and Netanya on a growing list of illustrious clubs facing an uncertain future.

Israeli soccer has enough problems as it is and fans should learn to cherish those blessed individuals who for some unknown reason or another decide to give their money away to a cause many would question.

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