So how did Hapoel Ashkelon FC reach the 2023 Toto Cup final, to be played at Ramat-Gan?
Well, the first step was surviving the group stage that immediately precedes the start of the league season.
First we had the ‘excitement’ of the drawer. Ah! We’ve drawn Beitar Jerusalem, S.C. Ashdod, Hapoel Be’er-Sheva, and Hapoel tel-Aviv, just as we do every year.
Some irritating Israeli equivalent to John Inverdale says, ‘That’s a tough group’ and I say, ‘I know, we’ve played in exactly the same group for the each and every one of my previous six seasons’.
Would someone please explain what the point of the draw is?
We scraped through in the usual way by winning one and losing only one of the four matches. We were helped, of course, by my supreme knowledge and experience: aware of the ‘foreign-trialists-can-play-in-the-Toto-Cup rule, I’ve set an annual reminder to pop up a few weeks before the cup begins.
This year we used this rule to bring in Beni Baningime, a cultured Congolese midfielder who has been on Everton’s books. He did a job for us against Beitar.