Local Soccer: Hapoel Jerusalem wins title, overshadows rival Katamon

An injury time winner from Shai Aharon gave Hapoel Jerusalem the points it needed to confirm promotion to the National League.

soccer 88 (photo credit: )
soccer 88
(photo credit: )
On Friday, just under two weeks after the infamous Betar Jerusalem pitch invasion at Teddy Stadium, fans of the capital's other team were celebrating a league championship win at the very same arena. An injury time winner from Shai Aharon gave Hapoel Jerusalem a 3-2 win over Hapoel Kfar Shalem and the points it needed to confirm promotion to the National League. Unlike the supporters of Betar, the 1,000 or so Hapoel fans in attendance listened to the announcer who asked them not to enter the field of play and called off an expected celebratory pitch invasion. Against all odds, Jerusalem is now a point away from securing the league title, just a year after relegation caused thousands of supporters to break away from the club and form the alternative Hapoel Katamon team currently playing in the fourth division Liga Alef. While Katamon had a storming start to their season and was favorite for promotion to the Liga Artzit, a run of bad results has left it far off Ironi Bat Yam in first place, with the fans and management knowing it cannot make first place and therefore will not be promoted this time. The result at Teddy on Friday was a triumph of the spirit of a Hapoel Jerusalem organization which had been written off at the start of the season amid the hype over the launch of Hapoel Katamon. Few fans stuck with Hapoel Jerusalem, but on Friday there was still a party atmosphere at Teddy with red and white balloons adorning the sides of the pitch and the players, trainers and management celebrating the win by popping open champagne and spraying the foam from the bottles all over each other. "This feels great," former Betar midfielder Ofir Azu said. "It shows how we stuck together and knew we could do it. I definitely want to stay at Hapoel Jerusalem and play on the team in the National League." Hapoel Jerusalem coach Lufa Kadosh was also in an uncharacteristically jovial mood. Speaking to the Jerusalem Post on the pitch after the game, Kadosh said: "Hapoel Jerusalem lives and will continue to live on, whatever anyone else tries to do. I hope that next season Hapoel Jerusalem and Hapoel Katamon can merge and we can bring those thousands of fans to come and support us in the National League." However, the situation is not as simple as the players and coaches would like it to be. The factor that tipped the former Hapoel Jerusalem fans over the edge and into forming their own team was the dispute between the two feuding owners Victor Yona and Yossi Sassi. This season Sassi took control and Yona stepped aside but there is still a concern amongst fans that the situation will boil over in the summer. Sassi would not discuss the future while the promotion party was going on, only saying how happy he was with the result.