The Last Word: Betar Jerusalem's stars should match the effort of Man United's reserves

The team had quite clearly been sloppy in preparation and execution of mathc against Ironi Kiryat Shmona.

jeremy last 88 (photo credit: )
jeremy last 88
(photo credit: )
For much of this week the sporting headlines in England were dominated by the revelation that Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson had reportedly decided to bed in a group of young reserve team players in this weekend's Premier League game against Hull City. For United, which clinched the league title last weekend, the game is meaningless, and Ferguson will do all he can to ensure his stars are rested and avoid injury ahead of Wednesday's Champions League final. However, Hull is in a precarious position, just one point above the relegation zone going into the last games of the season on Sunday, so there was outcry in the British media over the prospect of a weakened Man United team giving an unfair advantage to the Tigers in the relegation battle. There has even been talk of United being punished by the English Premier League if it is seen to breach a clause in Premier League rule E20 which states, "each participating club shall field a full-strength team." In the end it is unlikely that any such punishment will be applied, because, whoever plays for Ferguson on Sunday, be it Jonny Evans or his brother Corry, the manager will not stand for anything but 100 percent effort. The English Premier League is one of the most professional sporting institutions in the world and the players will know they must play to their best abilities if they want to earn the respect of the coaching staff as well as their fellow professionals. Unfortunately this is in stark contrast to the situation in Israeli soccer, where the players and coaching staff often seem to do the best they can to appear unprofessional. The most glaring example came both before and during Ironi Kiryat Shmona's Premier League victory over Betar Jerusalem last weekend. While Kiryat Shmona was desperate for the win to save it from relegation, Betar had hardly anything to play for with either a third or fourth-place league finish practically guaranteed. But with the team from the capital qualifying for the next week's State Cup final only a few days before, you might have thought the players and coaches at the club with the highest salaries in Israeli soccer would realize the importance of keeping the momentum going. Instead Betar played with a lack of care that was so obvious it was embarrassing, and lost 2-0. To make matters worse, a few days later, a photograph taken the afternoon before the game of Betar midfielder Idan Tal and center back Arik Benado posing on a kayak at the Kfar Blum hotel where the team had been staying, was released to the press. The photograph, which had only been intended to promote the hotel resort in the north, sparked furious debate within the Hebrew press over how seriously the Betar team had taken the game. Here, the reporters had missed the point completely. It didn't matter whether, as Benado had protested, the dip in the lake had been part of his preparation for the game or not. The performance on the pitch spoke for itself. Betar chairman and former star goalkeeper Itzik Kornfein may have been livid after the game, but it was too late. The team had quite clearly been sloppy in preparation and execution, and it is this lack of care and professionalism which must be addressed to prevent such incidents recurring.