Betar, Ra'anana playing for pride, and more, in Toto Cup fin

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.

Betar 248.88 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Betar 248.88
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)

Betar Jerusalem will hope to salvage a modicum ofpride from its disappointing season when it faces Hapoel Ra'anana inthe Toto Cup final on Tuesday night.

Theteam from the capital has fallen from grace in recent months. Betar iscurrently in sixth position in the Premier League but is well out ofthe title race, a full 23 points behind league leader Maccabi Haifa.

On Saturday Jerusalem was lucky to escape with a 0-0 draw awayto struggling Hapoel Petah Tikva and the few away fans that made thetrip could be heard calling for coach Itzhak Schum to quit throughoutthe game.

However, Schum has remained steadfast in his commitment toBetar and is expecting the team to focus all its effort on winningIsrael's second cup competition on Tuesday.

"Every final is important and it is important for usto be here," he said. "Winning titles is part of our tradition and wewill do everything we can to win the Toto Cup, the only title which wehaven't won in recent years."

The last time the 2007 and 2008 Premier League winner won thecompetition was in 1998. Ra'anana, meanwhile, will be appearing in itsfirst cup final and is relishing the prospect of facing up againstanother of Israeli soccer's heavyweights after knocking Maccabi Haifaout in the semifinals.

"Wewill give all due respect to Betar but we will do everything we can towin like we did against Haifa," said Ra'anana captain Shaul Smadja. "Weare clearly motivated for the game."

Pride is only one aspect of the motivation for the clubs totake the trophy. The Toto Cup is one of the biggest paydays in Israelisports, with the winner receiving NIS 1.1 million and the runner-up NIS900,000.

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 Betarillustrates just how much has changed at the club in the 14 monthssince owner Arkadi Gaydamak left for Russia.

Sponsor Guma Aguiar donated $4 million to Betar Jerusalem atthe start of the season, but his continued support is less thanguaranteed, especially since he was forcibly entered into a psychiatrichospital earlier this month.

Jerusalem captain Aviram Bruchian displayed an aura ofconfidence on Monday, saying the atmosphere among the squad is asstrong 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.