Local Soccer: Tel Aviv's Hapoel and Maccabi in crisis

Tel Aviv's once proud teams face an uphill battle after disastrous starts to the season.

luzon 224.88 (photo credit: asaf kliger)
luzon 224.88
(photo credit: asaf kliger)
The numbers are nothing short of astounding. Tel Aviv's two top teams, Maccabi and Hapoel, which are rock bottom of the Premier League standings, have collected a combined four points and scored a total of six goals in seven league matches to date. Few pundits could have expected this situation so far into the season. There's no doubting it now - there's a crisis in Tel Aviv. The teams, which have won a combined 21 league titles and 24 State Cups in their illustrious histories, are both winless this season and the derby match on November 11, which many thought could be a potential title decider, has become a fight for survival for two of Israel's greatest sports clubs. Maccabi's and Hapoel's situation is further complicated by the fact that there seems to be no end in sight to their barren spells. The pressure at both clubs is at an all-time high, while confidence is at a record low. The clubs attempted to insulate themselves from the outside world, instructing their players and coaches not to speak to the media. Maccabi, which hosts Bnei Yehuda on Saturday, will be hoping its 2-1 victory over Bnei Sakhnin in the Toto Cup on Tuesday will be the first of many wins to come and coach Nir Levin was optimistic that it won't be long before his team finally puts together a winning streak. "It was important for us to win today. I'm especially happy with the fact that we managed to come back from a goal down," said Levin, who has lost all five of his league matches since replacing Eli Cohen two games into the season. "We spoke about the positives after the match against Betar and we saw some of those positives today." Much of the blame for Maccabi's struggles this season has been placed on a change in the club's mentality. In previous years winning was the only important thing at the club and it had to be achieved at all cost. Maccabi has, however, lacked its famous spirit this season, with Sunday's 2-0 loss to Betar Jerusalem a perfect example. Despite suffering a fifth straight defeat without scoring a goal, Levin and his players were upbeat and positive after the match. "It's absurd that Maccabi officials and players keep speaking of the positives from the 2-0 loss to Betar. That's the way small teams behave, not Maccabi," 90FM radio DJ Omer Malka, who has been a Maccabi season-ticket holder for 10 years, told The Jerusalem Post. "The worst thing for Maccabi at the moment is that Hapoel is losing as well. Maccabi needs Hapoel to do well to spur it on. Maccabi must realize that if one of the Tel Aviv clubs is relegated it will be the yellow-and-blue. Hapoel has a better team and as soon as it replaces its coach it will start to do well." Hapoel fans called for the coach Guy Luzon's resignation after the side's 2-0 loss to Ashdod SC on Monday, but Luzon said that he wouldn't leave. And since Sunday's game officials at Hapoel have continuously said that they have no intention to replace coach Guy Luzon. Hapoel faces Betar Jerusalem in the Toto Cup on Wednesday and will play its fourth match in 10 days on Saturday against Luzon's former club Maccabi Petah Tikva. Goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama distributed a letter among his teammates ahead of training on Tuesday with the hope of encouraging the dispirited players. "Don't give up. Believe in yourselves and in your ability. Don't despair. Remember, winners' never say never," Enyeama wrote. Hapoel chairman Moni Harel stressed on Tuesday that Luzon would remain the team's coach and that he wasn't planning to fire him. "Luzon isn't the problem. If I thought he was I would sack him," Harel told radio 102FM. "Hapoel has a good team. We will correct the wrongs and hopefully get our campaign back on track."