When Alona Barkat took over Hapoel Be'er Sheva, hordes of new players were brought in. The clubs supporters protested, raged and cursed. Last season, Barkat promised the fans she would invest more in the club's academy players, and decrease its dependence on non-local players.
Barkat's promise calmed the fans, and Nir Klinger was supposed to be the first coach to implement the new policy. "I'm not overenthusiastic about the idea. It should be carried out in stages, not at once. But I'll carry out Alona's wishes. She's the boss," Klinger said at the time. During that season, several youth players were given a chance on the first team.
The fans were happy and enjoyed seeing the youngsters play. The promotion of the youth team to the first league, and the appearance at the youth cup final, where it lost to Maccabi Tel Aviv, caused Barkat and her staff to praise the new generation. "We have a wonderful youth players, talented youngsters who will be the backbone of the club for years," Barkat said at the time.
She deserves credit for arriving to watch the youth team play, investing time and money in it. Still, there's only a loose connection between the promises and reality.
Elisha Levy, hired as coach last summer, received clearance to bring in as many players as he wanted. As they arrived, Levy was asked why he acquired so many players while the owner declared in every opportunity that the youngsters would get their chances and that the team would be based on local players. In closed talks, Levy said that he "came to Be'er Sheba for the long run, to build something new. But I didn't come here to be a youth club coach. There aren't enough talented young players that can play on the first team. I wish there were."
Be'er Sheva fans have been quiet since Levy arrived, but after seeing the young players being hardly used, and with the new signings of Ravid Gazal and Ben Wahaba, they understood that things were not going to change.
"Players come to Be'er Sheva to make a bundle and end their career here," one fan complained. "They now brought Gazal, so he can retire here in a year or two. We're being misled as far as the local players. On the one hand they say that the promoted youth team is talented, with some great players, and on the other hand they're not given a chance to prove themselves, and second and third-tier players are signed."
If results don't change in the next few games, the fans say they will organize a supporters' boycott. They say they no longer identify with the team. Rather the disappointed fans feel like management is doing them a favor every time a youth player is fielded.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now