April 24, 1924
Hapoel Haifa is established during Passover in a meeting led by Yehoshua Sherpstein and Yair Aharony at a house in Haifa’s Hadar neighborhood. The organization creates several branches related to sports and to worker movements, with the goal of starting Palestine’s first labor-led soccer club.
Hapoel Haifa defeats a team of train workers on May Day in its first soccer match, then plays clubs around Palestine, Europe and the Middle East. Initially part of the Maccabi sports union, the club leaves after two years to help found the national Hapoel organization, in which it plays until the Israel Football Association is founded in 1928.
Although Hapoel Haifa, known as the Sharks, has won only one league championship, in 1999, it is one of Israel’s most popular clubs. Until 1981, it is one of only three teams, along with Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Tel Aviv, never to be relegated out of the Israeli professional league’s top division. But the club struggles and spends the next decade mired in the second division and teetering on the edge of bankruptcy as its owner, the Histadrut labor federation, also battles financial problems. The involvement of fishing tycoon Rob Shapira, who buys the club during the 1993-94, helps elevate Hapoel Haifa to new heights, including the 1999 championship in the first division.