Hapoel J'lem could well become a true supporter's team which reflects the family atmosphere so many people wish they could experience at soccer.
By JEREMY LAST
On Thursday it was announced that fans of fourth-division soccer team Hapoel Katamon have voted overwhelmingly to support a proposal to reunite the club with its National League parent team Hapoel Jerusalem.
The news represents a massive triumph for the perserverance of the supporters of Jerusalem's team in red, and a potential new beginning for Hapoel Jerusalem, an organization which has been riddled with controversy and debt in recent years since businessmen Victor Yona and Yossi Sassi began squabbling over its ownership.
Hapoel Katamon was created two years ago by disgruntled Hapoel Jerusalem fans who had enough with Sassi and Yona.
At the time the fans had attempted to take over affairs at the club but were pushed aside by the owners and found the only alternative to be to form a new club.
In essence, Hapoel Katamon was simply a protest movement and its stated aim was only to somehow eventually take control of Hapoel Jerusalem.
Its first season was a near-total success, with crowds of more than 4,000 filling the stands at Teddy Stadium to cheer on the team which came within a whisker of winning promotion to the third division.
This season has been far more disappointing, characterized by dwindling attendance and finances and poor performances on the field of play which have failed to captivate the fans.
Now, Yona is finally out of the picture and Sassi has agreed to allow the Katamon fans to run the management.
However, there is a rather large catch. The Katamon group must find 700 people to commit to contributing NIS 1,000 a year for five years in order to buy out Yona. The situation is complicated and difficult for all involved, but it appears likely that the NIS 700,000 will be found and from the start of next season Hapoel Jerusalem will become a fan-run club.
On one hand it seems a little sad to say goodbye to the project of Hapoel Katamon, which captured the imagination of thousands of people.
At the height of its successes last year the stadiums were abuzz with families of Jerusalemites, many of whom had not been to soccer before, or for a long time.
But, if the new plan works out, Hapoel Jerusalem could well become a true supporter's team which reflects the family atmosphere which so many people wish they could experience at soccer.
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