Earlier this week (Tuesday, September 25), we celebrated Hapoel Katamon Jerusalem’s (HKJ) victory in the Toto Cup, a competition for national league clubs in Israel.
The win was a truly historic occasion and achievement because it was the first time a club owned by supporters has claimed a professional title in the country.
Image credit: Hapoel Katamon Jerusalem media team
Although the Toto Cup is held for clubs in the second division of Israeli football, the atmosphere in the stands on the night was similar to an atmosphere of a Premier League fixture. The fans started to arrive at the Ramat Gan Stadium early on, and eventually over 2,000 people from Jerusalem watched Nigerian youth William Agada clinch the vital goal of the 1-0 win. Yogev Lerman, team captain, then hoisted Katamon’s first trophy in the history of the club into the air after the final whistle.
Credit: Hapoel Katamon Jeruselem media team
The victory is also testament to the club’s promising start to the season, with the team winning four out of five games so far. The main objective is to be promoted to the Premier League next season and to achieve this the players, professional team and fans will have to continue working hard and winning more games over the coming few months.
Every year about 800 people renew their membership in the club, with the members choosing the management group to lead HKJ forward for the coming 12 months each March. Football fans and the media in Israel are noticing this approach, and the ‘glass ceiling’ is beginning to shatter – namingly the understanding that it is possible for a group of fans in the form of Katamon to find themselves amongst the great teams of Israeli football.
This victory is not a standalone achievement either: the Toto Cup win is part of a steady trend of professional improvement seen over the last number of years. HKJ has a professional support team and some of the best training facilities in Israel. The club’s youth department trains eight team and 300 children. In addition, social activities involve over 1,000 children from all over Jerusalem with senior players signing up to be part of this vital social work as part of their playing contracts.
So while this season’s Toto Cup may be a first for Katamon, there is much more to come from this community-owned football club in the heart of Israel.