Hapoel Robi Shapira FC: Community first football

Many in SD Europe’s network will no doubt know the successes of Hapoel Jerusalem FC, however, they are not the only member-owned and run football club in Israel.

The country has a rich tapestry of member-run clubs all a part of the Israfans network who all place their community and supporters at the epicentre of all they do.

One of the many football clubs which deserves particular recognition for its work is Hapoel Robi Shapira FC, which plays in the 3rd division of Israeli football.

Hapoel Robi Shapira FC was formed in 2014 as a breakaway club by supporters who were opposed to the owner of Hapoel Haifa FC.

SD Europe recently spoke to Alva Nuriel, a director of the Hapoel Haifa Fans Association which manages Hapoel Robi Shapira FC, to gain an insight into the club and how it utilises youth football.

Can you introduce your role at the football club and tell us a little about it?

“For the past three years I have been a member of the board of directors of Ir Hapoalim (Hapoel Haifa Fans Association), which manages the Hapoel Robi Shapira Haifa Football Club.”

Can you tell us about your youth program (youth teams, community work etc)? When did it start? How does it work?

“The youth department of the club was established in 2016, about a year after the establishment of the association. The youth department was one of the goals of the association that were set on the day it was founded. As a department operating in the Haifa and Krayot area, cities where many youth departments already operate, it was not easy to recruit players and at first, we relied on players who came through our community project “Promotion Through The Feet” and other players we scouted on playing fields around the city. Today the department has developed greatly, we have teams ranging from children ages to a youth team that plays in the National Youth League. Our department is one of the best departments in the area, over 200 players are registered with us and we still welcome more.”

“All players in the youth department are obliged to participate in community activities that the association organizes, for example, collecting food for those in need.”

“Our youth department is professionally managed by a professional manager who grew up in the club and coaches with us from the very beginning. When talking about the late Robi Shapira (former owner of Hapoel Haifa, after whom the team is named), it should be emphasised that his dream was a glorious youth department, players who grew up in red from an early age and grew into adult players. This is our vision, and this is why I (and the whole association) continue on the path of the late Robi”.

What makes it different?

“I think the fact that we grew from the lower leagues and we built a youth department from scratch, and progressed to be one of the leading departments in the Haifa and Krayot areas. Establishing a new youth department is not an obvious step, and in fact most of the senior football clubs in Israel do not have a youth department. In our youth department, players from all religions and all ethnicities train together, regardless of religion or race. Coexistence is a really important value for us. Also, a significant number of the players come from difficult socio-economic backgrounds, but we do not give up on anyone and many have been playing with us for 4-5 years in a row.”

“In recent years, the main emphasis of the association has been on the youth department, including the transfer of significant budgets for the development and promotion of the department. The members of the association have also undergone a change of thinking and today they understand more the importance of a successful and developing academy as a basis for the day when the great Hapoel Haifa will be run by fans. Every year we launch a “scholarship” fundraising campaign for talented players who come from low socio-economic backgrounds and the mobilisation is wonderful and always exciting.”

“In the long run, the goal is to increase and expand our department, including more teams each year and more players to train and play in red. The goal is to return to being one of the leading youth departments in the country, as it was in the days of the late Ruby Shapira. The dream is to set up a training complex for the department. A complex that will upgrade the department in all respects, and will include lecture rooms, video rooms, manicured grounds and of course offices. This type of complex will put our department in a leading position and help us grow and grow.”

Thank you to Alva Nuriel and Hapoel Robi Shapira FC for giving an insight into the football club. SD Europe looks forward to following Hapoel Robi Shapira’s progress on its journey!