Everything you need to know about Hapoel Beer-Sheva FC

Updated: December 13, 2016

The club from the desert of Negev nicknamed ‘the Camels’ had to wait for 40 years before winning the Israeli championship title this past May.

Their previous triumph came back in 1976 and, since then, the team have been through some very difficult times. Beersheba may only lie 100 kilometers south of Tel Aviv, but that is a lot by Israeli standards, and the city is considered by many as peripheral and unattractive. The underdog mentality is natural there in all aspects of life, and football is no exception.

Beer-Sheva are the first and only club in Israel to have a female owner, having taken over the club back in 2007 while in the second division, Alona Barkat has slowly but surely restored the club to it’s former glory. Albeit not with the necessary amount of setback, almost selling the club back in 2010 following an incident where angry fans assaulted their coach at the time.

The returning hero: Elyaniv Barda

While Bennayoun might be the most famous name to ever come out of Beer-Sheva, Elyaniv Barda is right up there and unlike Bennayoun made his return to the club in the Twilight years of his career. His return set in motion a renewed rise to the top for the Camels.

Elyaniv Barda spent 7 successful years playing for Belgian side KRC Genk before returning to his hometown team Beer-Sheva in 2014

“Barda’s arrival was massively important because it was a clear indication that the club is able to attract big stars,” Sharon Nissim, Israeli football commentator and a fervent Beer-Sheva fan, told ESPN FC. “Until then, top players were reluctant to sign for Be’er Sheva, but now many of them actually prefer to go to Negev, rather than clubs from Tel Aviv and Haifa.”

One of the major players lured to the desert was former Chelsea striker Ben Sahar who joined in 2015.

With Barda on board, Beer-Sheva changed their objectives and became a rising force, finishing second in 2014 and third in 2015, before winning an historic title in 2016.

New home: Turner stadium

Much like the Black Eagles, Beer-Sheva have relatively recnetly moved in to a new home. Just over a year ago in September 2015 they opened the doors to their near 17k capacity Turner stadium, and remained unbeaten for a year, losing their first match in the Toto Cup against Ashdod. But truth be told this is considered by many to be a meaningless competition in which the teams field mainly their reserves. No, their first defeat of real meaning didn’t come until the 20th of October against Sparta Prague, 0-1.

Their strong home reputation is only further enhanced this season by beating the likes of Internazionale (3-2), Celtic (2-0) and Olympiakos (1-0), leading to the elimination of the Greek Champions from the Champions League qualifiers.

“This is the best home ground in Israel, and the atmosphere is extraordinary,” Nissim said. “The team used to play in front of empty stands at the old Vasermil Stadium, but now there are 12,000 season ticket holders, and the club could easily have sold many more.”

Beşiktaş are rightfully proud of their UEFA Champions League comeback against Benfica, being 0-3 down at halftime but finishing the match all square at 33. But the Israeli Champions did something similarly impressive this season in the Europa League when they came back from being 0-2 down against Inter Milan, only to snatch a last grasp win finishing the match at 3-2 at fulltime, subsequently eliminating Inter from the Europa League.

The coach: Barak Bakhar

Barak Bakhar led Beer-Sheva to their first Israeli Premier League title in 40 years

Elisha Levy, now in charge of the Israel national team, was fairly successful at Beer-Sheva, but Barkat decided to replace him and gambled on the 36-year-old Barak Bakhar in the summer of 2015.

Bakhar assisted Ran Ben Shimon when Hapoel Ironi Kiryat Shmona, a small club from the tiny town on the Lebanese border, unexpectedly won the title in 2012, and later coached them himself. He then moved from the northernmost Israeli team to Beer-Sheva, the southernmost, and became a local hero in his first season.

Bakhar’s remarkable tactical nous helped Beer-Sheva to outlast rich favourites Maccabi Tel Aviv, managed by sporting director Jordi Cruyff. Most of the neutral fans, who dislike Maccabi’s financial power, supported the underdogs, and their success was very popular throughout the country.

Under Bakhar’s leadership Beer-Sheva have grown out to be a formidable opponent even at the European stage, putting Celtic, Southampton and Inter Milan to the test. Beer-Sheva are a hard working outfit who are quick both on and off the ball, without any major weaknesses for Israeli standards.  With their passionate fans and solid home reputation they are especially a tricky side to combat at the Turner stadium, having lost only one official match of note (vs. Sparta Prague).

Interesting players

We’ve already touched on several interesting players of Beer-Sheva, but the Israeli Champions have several colourful figures. Goalkeeper David Goresh, who will be 37 by the time the double confrontation with Beşiktaş comes around,

Maor Buzaglo’s strike 12 minutes from time would see Beer-Sheva through at the expense of Southampton on away goals (1-1, 0-0 in Israel)

has a pretty remarkable story to him. Goresh had a quite obscure career until he joined Beer-Sheva in 2015, after a phenomenal year for Beer-Sheva in which they clinched the title in May of 2016, Goresh had earned a place on the Israeli national team, capped for the first time aged 36 years old.

Former Chelsea prospect Ben Sahar, who was already previously mentioned, is arguably the biggest name on the roster. Ben Sahar was once considered to be a huge talent but after unsuccessful stints at more than 10 clubs Sahar was nearly written off, until he finally settled in at Beer-Sheva and finally lived up to his potential.

Nigerian striker Anthony Nwakaeme is one of Beer-Sheva’s most dangerous players, a very strong forward who is almost impossible to dispossess. He’s also one of the team’s more prolific players.

Another man to watch closely is Israeli winger Maor Buzaglo who scored the deciding goal away at Southampton to secure Beer-Sheva their qualification to round of 32, Buzaglo also got on the scoresheet in their 0-2 away win at Inter Milan. His quick feet and skill on the ball make him a constant threat on the right wing.

This is an altered piece originally written by Michael Yokhin of ESPNFC. All credit goes out to him for his research and in depth view of Hapoel Beer-Sheva FC. You can read his original piece here.

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Kaan Bayazit

Editor-in-chief at Beşiktaş International
Freelance sports writer specialized in Turkish football and Beşiktaş. Co-host of the Black Eagles podcast. Frequently featured in World Soccer Digest Japan and many other international media outlets. Following Turkish football for close to two decades. Proud father to Aedin.
Kaan Bayazit
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