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Women's Team

Team hoisting the Athena Cup

Hapoel Katamon Jerusalem, the senior women’s team of the fan-owned Hapoel Jerusalem club, is competing in the 2023-24 season at the highest level of Israeli women's football. It is fighting for the national championship, is in the latter stages of the State Cup, and in an emotional game won its first-ever title: the "Athena" Cup.

The team experienced a meteoric rise, having been founded only in the 2020-21 season, when it started playing in the third league. But this is not a Cinderella story. The uniqueness of this team in the local landscape lies in a long-term vision, creating a stable professional framework that is unmatched in the country, and relying on home-grown reserves. It is here to stay and grow. You are invited to fall in love.

The spine of the team that finished as league runners-up last season was enhanced this year by significant additions such as the foreigners Maireth Pérez and Rachael Nachula, the young national team player Batul Dar Khalil, the returning homegrown Hili Shalom, and others. And just as important: an expanded technical team that provides the players with similar conditions to the men's team in the fitness, physical therapy and mental work departments.

❝To play for a club belonging to the fans, who want the best for the team in the purest way - is a tremendous privilege. We are bringing a new vision to women's football in Israel, and believe that it is really possible to build a better future in the sport.❞ (Rachel Steinschneider, team captain, after winning the Athena Cup, March 2024)

Flavia the Brazilian striker, Rachel Steinschneider who was chosen as the Israeli Player of the Year, Maya Chitman the midfield engine, and behind them the returning Yahli Cohen with Janet Egyir, nominated for "Defensive Player of the Year in Africa". These are the prominent names that led the team in the 2022-23 season, and are still here with us. The stated goal was to survive in the tight league in our debut season. In practice, we found ourselves in the upper playoffs, way up in 2nd place in the table. The statement we brought to the league was expressed in our professional standards and a new type of support.

For years our club has been known as a leader in the cultivation of women's football in Israel. The only one that runs a programme for girls in the entire Jerusalem area, allowing them to play in structured frameworks: a bustling amateur league for women; 22 girls’ teams in the "Neighborhoods League" project that we founded; and of course: a girls’ youth department containing 5 teams – with one national championship and two state cups in their resume.

Going on the pitch
Athena Cup winners celebrations

2020-21: The Third Division

In the 2020-21 season, we introduced Hapoel Katamon Jerusalem - the senior team - on the field for the first time. The team's first season in the third division (Liga Artzit) started late due to the corona virus but exceeded all expectations.

The celebratory debut game ended with a tremendous cup victory on penalties against the strong Hapoel Tel Aviv team. This was followed by a tough start to the league, but changes made to the squad by then-coach Motti Ohayon (the former Hapoel Jerusalem centre-back) catapulted us to a renewed start and positive momentum. A series of impressive victories every week elevated us into a promotion position on the eve of the last match in Ashdod, where the women, led by Ruth Pinchassi (top scorer in the 3rd division with 25 goals), and with a loyal red crowd in the stands, triumphed 7:0 and won promotion to the National League (Liga Leumit).

2021-22: The National League

Pinchassi was discovered and grew up in the "Neighborhood League" that is operated by Hapoel for the girls and boys of Greater Jerusalem. Even today, our senior team includes Adva Buchholz, Maayan Safonov and Smadar Cohen - girls who have been wearing red since their first steps on a football field. Later, Yahli Cohen and Hili Shalom will also return home, but there were years when the best players produced by our young teams matured into prominent players in other clubs. Now the trend has changed. They are kept at home, where there is a real professional horizon.

❝Female athletes in Israel walk around with the feeling that no one cares. Here it is different, we are part of the red community.❞ (Ruth Pinchassi, team captain at the time, after winning promotion to the Premier League, April 2022)

In the 2021-22 season, under the guidance of coach Zohar Kaminski, the team’s journey to the top continued. While Buchholtz (21 goals, 9 assists) and Neri Katz were called up to the national youth team, we bolstered our squad with several veteran players who helped make the difference, among them goalkeeper Marom Keren and attackers Noa Bar Oz, Noi Amsili and Shahar Hamami.

The promotion race went through two local derby games, which created unprecedented interest in the city. In both we beat Beitar Jerusalem, 3:0 away and 4:2 at home. It continued as a shoulder-to-shoulder battle at the top with Hapoel Tel Aviv - who had been promoted with us in the previous season. We earned our place in the Premier League in the final game of the season, in dramatic fashion. We travelled to an away game in Beer Sheva, where we beat the hosts 4:1, but were still dependent on the result from the Moshava Stadium, where Hapoel Petach Tikva beat our Tel Aviv rivals 3:0. The champagne bottles were opened in the Negev capital.

2022-23 and on: Premier League

Ahead of the games in the top flight, the squad underwent a significant facelift to reach the required level. We surprised even ourselves: unforgettable highlights were the 1:0 home win over Kiryat Gat, and the 3:2 extra time win over Emek Hefer in the 1/8 finals of the State Cup. We secured a place in the upper playoffs early, and the double-digit points gap from the teams behind us secured us a sensational 2nd place long before the end of the season. Kiryat Gat celebrated another championship, their third in a row. In the 2023-24 season we are ready for this challenge as well.

❝What this team has done this season is something that neither I nor anyone else dreamed of two years ago, when we were founded. This testifies to the special way in which this club works, and to the fans - there is no such thing in Israel❞ (Yaara Goldman, captain of the team at the time, December 2022)

Women's soccer in Israel still has a long and significant distance to go: in terms of conditions, public perception, institutional budgeting, coverage, the amateurish attitude and yes, still - also in dealing with chauvinism. But we are on the pitch to change. With continuity, community and values ,to create a true football tradition.

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