Israeli soccer teams puts online fans in charge

The Internet fans can drag players they think should play into their preferred positions on a pitch diagram by a deadline. The information is then collated and the players who get the most votes will line up for the next …

The Internet fans can drag players they think should play into their preferred positions on a pitch diagram by a deadline. The information is then collated and the players who get the most votes will line up for the next match.Did you ever wish you could pull the strings and bring in the relief pitcher exactly when you thought it was the right time, or replace that ill-shooting guard in the third quarter with the underused but promising benchwarmer? That day is here, if you’re an Israeli soccer fan.

Fans of Hapoel Kiryat Shalom, in Israel’s third amateur division, can now use the team’s Web site to vote on the starting line ups and to give instructions to the field coach. This real-life interactive web 2.0 soccer team is the brainchild of diehard Israeli soccer fan Moshe Hogeg, who runs the country’s first social network for sports fans Web2sport. He was so upset when star striker Lionel Messi was left off Argentina’s side for a World Cup match against Germany last year that he decided to find investors and buy his own club.

“Millions of fans around the world wanted to see Messi in the starting 11 but one man thought otherwise and destroyed all our dreams when they lost,” the 26-year-old Hogeg told Reuters. “So we decided to do something about it.”

He teamed up with an online gaming company called Play65 and bought the low level Tel Aviv-based Kiryat Shalom team for $500,000. Fans of the team can use the team’s Web site, which is predominantly in Hebrew, to vote on the starting line-up and to give instructions to the coach.

“Most of our surfers like the idea that they can decide what the team will do: who will be in the first 11, what formation they will play and who will be the substitutes,” Hogeg said.

The Internet fans can drag players they think should play into their preferred positions on a pitch diagram by a deadline. The information is then collated and the players who get the most votes will line up for the next match. During the match, fans can vote on substitutions in a live online poll and they can post comments on an interactive blog while the action is taking place and ahead of the next fixture.

Over 6,000 Internet surfers went on the site for the first game of the season last week, where a broadcast unit hired by Hogeg screened the match online. According to Reuters, some fans struggled to connect because of strong demand, but Hogeg said they would boost bandwidth for the next match.

And did having fans make the coaching decisions spur on Kiryat Shalom to victory? Not quite – they lost 3-2 to Maccabi Ironi Or Yehuda. But there was a silver lining to the outcome – the fans only had themselves to blame.

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