By CARINE WARSAWSKI
Few Betar Jerusalem fans were caught by surprise when the team announced that Luis Fernandez would join the club on Wednesday.
However, not everyone in Jerusalem is convinced that Fernandez will be the club's savior.
Many Jerusalemites feel that Fernandez doesn't have the qualities to fit in with the unique atmosphere at Betar. Moreover, fans had grown to love current coach, Dutchman Ton Caanen, who will remain in his position under Fernandez.
"I do not think this move is a good idea, they should have left [Ton] Caanen to do the job," said Nir Cohen, 22, of Jerusalem. "Just because he has was successful as a player doesn't mean he can coach well for Jerusalem. There's too much pressure in Betar for him to succeed like he did in France."
Of course there are others who expressed cautious optimism regarding Fernandez's appointment.
"He may not have been the first choice, but he is still a high-ranked, world-class coach. Fernandez is probably the biggest name of any foreign coach to land in Israel," offered Eran Rotshenker, 24, a devoted Betar fan and a student of psychology at Hebrew University.
There are many fans who feel that the addition of a new coach and a new general manager presents too many critical changes in too short a period of time for the team. "People started getting used to Caanen, things were stable and quiet, but the fans aren't patient, and you have to keep the fans quiet for things to start happening," added Rotshenker.
The tremendous pressure on teams in the capital could be a stumbling block. Some Jerusalemites said they have been waiting a long time for the championship title and are beginning to get impatient. With the team now in third place, both Cohen and Rotshenker agree that the slightest slip in rankings could be devastating to Fernandez's reputation, having the blame fall on him rather than on Caanen.
So what about future seasons? With Caanen having the ability to build his own team with a fresh start next year, as opposed to working with one already selected for him, some fans are keeping their heads up.
"I think this is a good move for the long run," said student Yair Frank, 24, from Karmiel. "Maybe 10 years down the road we'll take the championship."
However, 10 years down the road might be too long a wait for some fans, such as Rotshenker. "This year we'll still fight, we'll finish in second, but next year we'll win, and we'll take the State Cup."