In a few days, the storm surrounding Beitar Jerusalem's 5-0 loss to Wisla Krakow will abate, the shame will fade and the praise will return. Was it not hinted last week that "it was possible" to beat Barcelona, drawn to play the victor in the Israel-Poland encounter? The Catalonians are not the sons of gods. They have only two legs and one head, and on a "good day," the sky is the limit.
In a few days, this talk will return in Israel. Let bygones be bygones; now we're focused on the league, our "bread and butter." Now we're looking forward, and there's no need to pick at wounds. And next year, they'll once again be saying that Beitar is as eternal as Jerusalem, and that its losses are only temporary. Luck simply forgot to make an appearance.
Beitar Jerusalem is only a metaphor for the state of local soccer. It's just one example of a cheap product whose second-rate quality would not have been revealed had they not tried to sell it abroad. It brought ridicule even in the Polish market. The Israeli soccer player is a phony. At best, he could be sold to Belgium, but he's quickly returned even there. He also gets very homesick, because at home he's the center of attention. I recently met a sports commentator in the street and asked him why he and his colleagues treat every lout as a "very talented player"; what exactly makes them believe in his hidden talents? The answer is obvious: If the players are louts, what does that make commentators who make a living off them?
Foreign players in Israel are also phonies. Let's not delude ourselves: Only a soccer player on his last legs will waste his time here. He'll come here only if he has no choice, because he was not wanted elsewhere.
Israel's coaches are also phonies. Don't believe in some coaching occult, the 4-4-2 or 4-5-1 formations or any other such combination. There are no good or bad coaches. Rather, they are leaders, bad or good - those who respect themselves and inspire players to try. Ralph Klein was a coach like any other, but he was also a leader.
And the good old fans are also phonies. They don't really show up at matches to enjoy themselves, they come to see the loser lose. Beitar fans are content to beat Hapoel Tel Aviv fans, and vice versa. This isn't Europe, and why should Europe interest this hate-filled, frustrated neighborhood?
That is how Israeli soccer works, and it will continue to propel itself forward. We shall lose in the World Cup qualifiers this September because players are corrupted by money, fame and celebrity, as well as by the fans, papers and models that chase them; because there is not one Israeli player who justifies his exorbitant salary. So what if their performance is somewhat lacking on the pitch?
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