(photo credit: Channel 1)
Hapoel Tel Aviv captain Shimon Gershon was full of emotion on Monday as he announced he was leaving the club he has played at for his entire professional career.
Gershon told reporters that he will be playing for Betar Jerusalem next season, although the deal has not yet been completed.
The 28-year-old central defender called a dramatic press conference Monday afternoon just hours after breaking off his contract extension talks with Hapoel.
"The last months have been tough, since our State Cup win wasn't enough for the board to support me," Gershon explained. "I wanted to extend my contract all season. I don't like negotiations, and their [the board's] passiveness didn't help the cause. I was left with no choice but to opt out."
An overwhelmed Gershon needed a few moments to recollect his thoughts, but later confessed that he has agreed to join Arkadi Gaydamak's Betar.
"I have no problem playing at the Teddy stadium, despite all the years of hostile welcomes I have received there." Gershon responded when asked about joining archrival Betar. "I am sure the Betar fans will support me and will understand it was only a sporting rivalry all along."
This is not the first time a local fan favorite has made such an unexpected move. Betar captain Yossi Abuksis returned to the reds six seasons ago after winning two back-toback championships with the yellow-and-black, causing lots of unrest amongst the team fans.
The physical sweeper was also an integral part of Tel Aviv's amazing UEFA Cup run in the 00'-01' season, which included wins over AC Milan, Chelsea and Locomotive Moscow.
Gershon is likely to be the first new player to join Betar since the announcement that Argentinian Ossie Ardiles will be taking over as head coach at the club.
Ardiles, who has previously coached at Tottenham and Newcastle in England as well as in Japan, is due to arrive in Israel to sign his contract.
Meanwhile, Betar chairman Vladimir Shaklar confirmed Monday that the team is on verge of signing Hapoel Petah Tikva teenage sensation Toto Tamuz, who turns into a free player this summer.