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Hapoel join Europe's aristocracy

New faces: Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC did the double in Israel last season, completing it by triumphing on a nervous final day on which title rivals Maccabi Haifa FC dropped points.

Hapoel secured their place in the group stage by defeating Salzburg in the play-offs
Hapoel secured their place in the group stage by defeating Salzburg in the play-offs ©Getty Images

Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC won the Israeli title for the first time in ten years last season and, having overcome FK Željezničar and FC Salzburg in qualifying, take their place in the UEFA Champions League as one of six newcomers.

Who are they?
Formed: 1926
Nickname: Ha'adumim (The Reds)
League titles: 13
Israeli Cup: 13

In the two and a half years since Eli Gutman was appointed, Hapoel
have been transformed from a club battling relegation to one competing among Europe's big names. Gutman took charge ten matches into the 2007/08 season with Hapoel bottom of the table but guided them to a seventh-place finish, four points clear of danger. From that point on, Gutman − assisted by former Hapoel midfielder Yossi Abuksis − and the Reds have never looked back.

A runners-up spot ensued in 2008/9, followed by a domestic double and progress in Europe last term. Hapoel topped a UEFA Europa League group containing Hamburger SV, SK Rapid Wien and Celtic FC en route to a last 32 defeat by FC Rubin Kazan. Etey Schechter, who played under Gutman at Maccabi Netanya FC, scored 31 goals in all competitions in his first campaign at the club, while Nigeria goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama scored five times as Hapoel's designated penalty taker.

One to watch
Gil Vermouth, 25, playmaker
Vermouth returned for a second stint at Hapoel in 2008 after a short spell with Belgium's KAA Gent. The diminutive playmaker came through the ranks at Hapoel Haifa FC before joining the Reds in 2005. Vermouth had a canny tendency to score when it really mattered last term, giving Hapoel the lead in a title-winning victory at Beitar Jerusalem FC on the final day and registering twice against Bnei Yehuda Tel-Aviv FC in the Israeli Cup final. His 13 domestic goals and 16 assists in 34 league matches unsurprisingly earned him Israel's player of the year award.

Memorable match
Beitar Jerusalem FC 1-2 Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC 2, Israeli Premier League, 15 May 2010
Hapoel travelled to Teddy Stadium on the final day needing to win and for Maccabi Haifa FC to drop points against Bnei Yehuda to stand a chance of winning the title. Vermouth gave Hapoel the lead early on but when Omri Kende was dismissed on the half-hour mark and Barak Yitzhaki equalised before the break, Hapoel's number looked to be up. However, Beitar were reduced to ten men midway through the second half and, with Maccabi Haifa drawing, Eran Zahavi struck an added-time winner.

Greatest player
Yehoshua Faigenbaum
A revered figure for Hapoel in the 1960s and 70s, Faigenbaum still holds the record as the club's all-time top scorer with 131 league goals. Faigenbaum, who grew up in a house just outside Bloomfield Stadium, joined Hapoel aged eight. In 15 seasons, he won two league titles, finished leading scorer ten times and in 1972 lifted his final trophy having headed in the winner against Hapoel Jerusalem FC in the cup final. He has also had two spell as coach, in 1994 and 2004, saving Hapoel from relegation on each occasion.

Did you know?
Hapoel share Bloomfield Stadium with bitter city rivals Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC and Bnei Yehuda. Last season they lost just once in 35 league matches – a 2-1 home defeat by Maccabi Haifa – and were crowned champions by virtue of a superior goal difference over the latter.

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