Hapoel Tel Aviv's soccer team opened its practices on Saturday for the coming season under a dark cloud. Walid Badir, the team's veteran captain, accompanied coach Nitzan Shirazi even though he has yet to sign a contract for next season.
"It's a pretty complicated day," said the coach. "We're at a point where more is unknown than out in the open, but a club of Hapoel's dimensions will get back on its feet, which are strong and stable." Shirazi said the team was surrounded by administrative issues, and the clock was ticking, noting the team has two-and-a-half months to prepare for European competition.
"No one knows what the day will bring," he said. "We have to put on hold any declaration of intentions about the coming season. We'd rather have a bigger budget, but it will definitely be a reasonable, pared-down budget."
The team has signed just one player, defender Daniel Borcal. Several players who finished their contracts left the club. While the fate of Badir, Salim Toama and Yigal Antebi remain up in the air, club officials said they hoped in the coming days to reach understandings with all three to wrap up official contracts for next season.
Badir stressed that he has already decided to stay with Hapoel Tel Aviv, partly for the fans. "Although I still don't have a contract, it's my home," he said. "I don't want to consider any scenario in which I won't be here." He pledged that he and his teammates would get the team back on its feet.
"I considered retirement after the Cup, but I saw that this club was not doing well, and I deceded to stay for the sake of the fans and the symbol of the team."
Coach Shirazi said he hoped the deal transfering control of Hapoel from Eli Tabib to Yoav Moser would be signed so he could jump start-the club. "Don't rush to eulogize the team," Shirazi said. "It's not easy running things this way, but this club contains great, unusual power."
Shirazi said he knows how much the fans fear for the club's fate. "In reality things are much better than they seem to be," he said. "I'm not asking for any breaks or lowered expectation. Even with a NIS 20 million budget, with the force that Hapoel Tel Aviv has, it could be enough for a great season.
Some players had weighed boycotting opening practice because their salary had not been paid. They received a message during the day that all the funds would be transfered to their accounts, including bonuses from the month of April.
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