It only goes from bad to worse for Betar fans

Sinai Says: Times are tough for Betar J'lem fans and there’s no reason to think they'll get better any time soon.

Betar Jerusalem fans 390 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Betar Jerusalem fans 390
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
The only thing bleaker than Betar Jerusalem’s present is its future.
It’s hard not to feel sorry for the poor souls who spent their hard earned money on a ticket to watch Betar’s 0-0 Premier League draw against Maccabi Tel Aviv at a freezing Teddy Stadium on Monday night.
Betar failed to score for a fourth straight league match and remained in 13th place in the standings, a mere two points above Hapoel Beersheba and the relegation zone.
But what really led to the aura of desperation which engulfed the stadium as the final whistle sounded was not the goalless deadlock but rather the lack of fight and fortitude displayed by Betar players.
Fans can somehow grow to accept incompetence, but carelessness is something no supporter can tolerate.
The age long debate regarding the benefit of replacing a coach during the season will never be resolved, but it is widely acknowledged that there is almost always some short term response from the squad.
That may well be true for most teams, but not for the pathetic bunch wearing the striped yellow-and- black shirts on Monday.
The installment of coach Eli Cohen in place of Yuval Naim last week was made first and foremost in the hope that the veteran would be able to instill belief in the squad and inspire the despondent players.
But if Monday’s performance is anything to go by, Betar has little hope of survival.
As disastrous as it has played, Betar has spent almost the entire season out of the relegation zone, thanks in large part to other teams simply playing even poorer.
But that is no longer the case.
As inconsistent as it has been, Hapoel Haifa, which is tied on 25 points with Betar, has shown real promise since Tal Banin replaced Nitzan Shirazi as coach.
Hapoel Beersheba is also on its second coach of the season, and while Guy Levy has guided his team to just one win in its last eight matches, the southerners have at least scored in all but one of those games.
Betar’s state is so grave that its fans are even envious of rock-bottom Hapoel Petah Tikva, which would have currently been in front of Jerusalem in the standings had it not been handed a nine-point deduction to start the season after going into administration.
Petah Tikva had to assemble a squad almost from nothing in the week leading up to the season after the Israel Football Association’s high court decided to reinstate it to the Premier League just a few days after the team was initially notified that it would be relegated to the National League due to its financial state.
However, despite the impossible situation, coach Gili Landau built a cohesive unit which refuses to give up until survival will be mathematically impossible.
Petah Tikva will likely go down, but at least it is playing with pride, something which can not be said about Betar players.
Betar’s season also began catastrophically after coach David Amsalem resigned five days before the side’s first match.
Just three weeks prior to Amsalem’s shock announcement and Naim’s signing, Betar seemed to be heading towards a bright future.
Americans Dan Adler and Adam Levin promised to return the club to its former glory after agreeing to purchase it from Arkadi Gaydamak.
However, Adler and Levin soon deserted Betar and the off-field uncertainty has only gotten worse with time.
One of the charming benefits of being a sports fan is the knowledge that you always have next season to look forward to.
Unlike almost any other aspect of life, a soccer team gets to wipe the slate clean at the start of every season, reigniting hope regardless of what unfolded the previous year.
But for Betar, the future is even more gloomy than the present.
Cohen may well lead Betar to another season of Premier League soccer, but with so much doubt shrouding Gaydamak’s intentions, it is hard to be optimistic about Jerusalem’s prospects.
Chairman Itzik Kornfein has been the one calling the shots at Betar ever since Gaydamak lost interest in the club three years ago.
However, in recent months he has seemingly lost his grasp over happenings to a man named Gal Yosef.
Yosef is the owner of Hakoakh Amidar Ramat Gan of the National League and is apparently Gaydamak’s new best friend.
Strangely, Yosef also paid Betar NIS 1.6 million for its 20 percent stake in Hapoel Tel Aviv striker Toto Tamuz, who moved to the club from Jerusalem.
But far more worrying for Betar fans is how popular Yosef seems to be with police.
Yosef denies any wrongdoing, but let’s just say that he’s seen the inside of a cell, for example being questioned in September 2010 in suspicion of blowing up a car of a contractor with which he had his differences.
With no one in the know-how willing to reveal who actually is in charge of Betar at the moment, fans can only pray that the person in power does indeed have the club’s best interests at heart.
Depressingly, relegation could actually be the least of Betar’s problems.