Is He the Right Man?

Beitar Jerusalem chairman Itzik Kornfein's mistakes are piling up at an alarming rate, can Kornfein save the club, or is he only in it for the money?

Itzik Kornfein is not the "baddie" in the tragic story of Beitar Jerusalem. Yet still the main question regarding Kornfein is how suitable he is for the demanding role of club chairman at this present, trying time. Which of his talents justify his position at the head of one of Israel's most important soccer teams? His history as an outstanding goalkeeper? His academic degrees? Kornfein is rightfully viewed as an integral part of the club, but sentimentality or romanticism are not enough to lift the club out its present financial and spiritual morose.

Kornfein's mistakes are piling up at a worrying rate. No less worrying is the growing impression that he is a hedonist. Senior players on the squad have for some time been spreading that impression. Some of them have lost faith in Kornfein's ability to save the club, others would never march behind him if he called "After me." When the chairman enjoys a generous wage and even ups his pay during times of trouble, the players cannot be expected to take a voluntary wage cut.

Kornfein should long ago have given a personal example and reduced his own salary, driven a less fancy car and openly displayed to all concerned that the chairman was also tightening his belt during the coming period of austerity.

The Beitar players are more sober than ever. In an interview with Moshe Boker last week, team captain Aviram Baruchyan decided to admit what has been clear for some time - that Beitar is no longer one of Israeli soccer's "big four" teams, that it no longer interests anyone. He also wondered aloud how it is that no businessman has jumped at the opportunity.

This question should be directed at Kornfein. The question that has no answer is what preconditions Kornfein is demanding in negotiations, how ready is he to vacate his seat if a potential buyer wants to take over the club, and what way out of the imbroglio he has to offer.

In the meantime, Beitar is losing its best players, or those with the potential to become leading players. This clearance sale threatens the team in the short-term, but more so in the future. Beitar is narrowing down to three or four assets: Baruchyan; the goalkeeper Ariel Harush; vice-captain Amit Ben Shushan and young striker Hen Azriel. If this is Kornfein's business strategy, it's difficult to see who would want to buy a club with a proud history and depressing future. The fans are deserting and the media shows little interest - at this rate the team will soon be only for the handful of rabble who call themselves "La familia."

I am still looking for some business brain wave from Kornfein. Good players have been sold for far too little to rival teams. Kornfein complains about the manpower problems with his club, but has only himself to blame. He will not pay the price - Beitar Jerusalem will.

Kornfein doesn't dare come out against owner Arcadi Gaydamak. The man who single-handedly saved Beitar must now ask this question: Can Kornfein save the club, or is he only in it for the money? Is Beitar bigger than him, or do personal interests override the team's? Which are more important to the chairman?