Courtesy Dov Halickman Photography

Courtesy Dov Halickman Photography

#1: Hapoel Beer Sheva answered the bell on Monday night against Maccabi Tel Aviv defeating prior season’s Treble winners at Bloomfield Stadium 2:1. Barak Bachar and his troops were ready for battle and capitalized on their two scoring chances. Their first goal came in the third minute off of a deflection where Reds captain Elyaniv Barda dove head first to use his noggin to bump the ball into the Yellow-and-Blue goal. The second strike came off of a break where Maccabi keeper Predrag Rajkovic misjudged the play and went way out of his goal. Maor Melikson, who is having arguably the best season of his career, intelligently maneuvered his way past both Rajkovic and Dasa to send a long ball right into the goal. Bingo.

Maccabi may have controlled the tempo of the match and held the ball for what seemed like 99% of the game, but were unable to get it past veteran keeper Dudu Goresh. Even the goal Goresh gave up came from a deflection off of Barda. It’s certainly a long season, but Beer Sheva has announced that they will be a legitimate title contender the rest of the way.

#2: Both Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Jerusalem will be playing in the EuroCup tournament’s second round this year. Maccabi was embarrassingly knocked out of the Euroleague finishing in a shocking 5th place, while Hapoel needed help to advance to the next round. The pressure is now on both clubs as they look to to best one another on the court in Israel and in European competition. On one side of the coin, Hapoel wants to show that they can be a force in European play and on the other side Maccabi doesn’t want to be shown up by Hapoel who already won the Israeli league title last year, their first in franchise history.

Zan Tabak will have his hands full especially with management monitoring his every move and has very little room for error after being already knocked out of the Euroleague. Maccabi will face the likes of teams they should easily beat in Ljubljana, Novgorod and Kazan. Of course everyone said that they should have easily beaten Darussafaka, Bamberg and Malaga, so at this point it’s not all open for Maccabi. Hapoel meanwhile will face last year’s finalist Gran Canaria, Avtodor Saratov and Strasbourg. Not an easy group and should Hapoel advance it will give them more respect in the new FIBA League. An interesting winter awaits us on the hardwood here in Israel.
#3: Dudi Sela wrapped up his third Israeli tennis title while a reunion for Yoni Erlich and the recently retired Andy Ram was good enough to win the doubles title. The AndYoni show was more of a gimmick than anything else, but as they say you never know especially with the Olympics coming up. Sometimes athletes just need a break and time away from the sport they love to realize how much they indeed miss the competition on a day to day basis. Ram is still young enough in the case of doubles at only 35-years of age to continue to play and not lose much of what he was just a few years ago.

The one worrying issue on the men’s side is the development of younger talent. Seeing the same old names over and over again does not bode well. However, that was not the case on the women’s side. Olga Fridman won the ladies tournament besting Yulia Glushko another young Israeli tennis player. Fridman is an interesting case as she sports dual Israeli and Ukrainian citizenship. She hasn’t represented any country yet in Fed Cup tourneys and it would be wise for Israel to find a way for her to represent the Blue-and-White. But there’s a catch. Her father wants her to play under the Ukrainian flag as Israeli athletes have problems entering certain countries due to them being Israeli and he wants her to have no part of that or having security always be an issue. On one hand that’s very fatherly to want the best for her daughter, however, she is in Israel and is playing and training in Israel therefore she should be representing Israel.
#4: The Israeli WINNER League TV rights went to bid this week and the winner was Charlton paying an exorbitant amount of 125 Million NIS per year for 3 years. A staggering 375 Million NIS. That’s a lot of money. Considering the last contract that Charlton had stood at 53 Million NIS per year, the amount paid now by Charlton is crazy. How did it happen? Simple. Mobile phone provider Partner came into the bidding late in the game and drove the price up. So who’s going to pay that bill? Well the consumer of course!

Already paying ludicrous prices to the cable companies for the sports packages, it’s the sports fans who will be hit yet again, forced to buy one channel after the next in order to see the Israeli league. I was under the impression that the league is supposed to be trying to make watching football be it at the stadium or at home easier in order to attract new fans. This will not happen by charging even more and more money. Can Charlton sell the rights as well to foreign countries? Yes, that’s possible and they will probably sell parts of the package that they bought to other Israeli channels. But it’s extremely disturbing to see the sports fan being taken advantage of yet again. Where is the league and where are the teams trying to attract new fans to the sport.