It might sound like a cliché, especially these days, but there is a soccer club that really is by the fans for the fans.
And last weekend in Israel Hapoel Katamon Jerusalem, the only fan-owned club in the country, won its first promotion to Liga Leumit (Israel’s second tier league).
You could say it’s a shmattas to riches story.
In a city, where soccer is dominated by the notorious top-flight team Beitar Jerusalem, Hapoel Katamon’s accomplishment is the latest highlight of a club that was born six years ago after a group of irritated fans, unhappy with mismanagement, and divisive and often racist fans of Beitar, decided to break away from the parent club.
Though they call the Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem (also the home of Beitar) their home as well, unlike their co-tenants, Katamon’s enlightened approach has managed to appeal to fans of different religions, Jewish and Muslim, primarily attracting families.
According to its Web site, the club has more than 400 members who pay an annual membership fee and choose, by ballot, a management team to run the team’s day-to-day affairs. The fans do not meddle in the on-field decisions. A visit to the team’s Facebook page gives you a taste of who the club’s fans are.
It is hard to say what is most impressive about Hapoel Katamon Jerusalem’s and its leap into the league. That is has passionate fans who are truly invested in the club or that it has bridged race and religiion to unite people for sport.
Could Hapoel Katamon Jerusalem possibly make the next leap to the first division? That might be asking too much, too soon.