Hapoel Katamon, the first fan-owned team to play in the professional Israeli soccer leagues, has been promoted to the second division, after crushing Lod 9-1 in the final game of the season on Friday. Lod, which threatened not to turn up for the game, arrived with only 11 players and ended the match with its main striker in goal.
This didn’t spoil Katamon’s army of 5,000 fans, however, who celebrated snagging top spot in the league and guaranteeing promotion to the National League. Since Katamon, which was founded in 2007 by fans unhappy with the way that Hapoel Jerusalem was being run, will now play in the same league as Hapoel next season, there is every chance that the two clubs will merge.
After the game, Katamon captain Shay Aharon said that he was in favor of joining forces with Hapoel. “What the city needs is another strong team in red − one that can be an alternative for soccer fans who don’t support Beitar. This is the happiest moment in my life,” he added. “It’s not just Hapoel Katamon that has won today, the whole of Israeli soccer has won.”
Another fan-owned team − Maccabi Jaffa − finished in second place behind Katamon, and will enter a playoff for a place in the National League.
Jaffa officials were outraged when they heard the result from the Katamon match, making all kinds of accusations about match-fixing and demanding a police investigation. The Israel Football Associated was quick to say that it will look into the complaints.