Maccabi Tel Aviv will complete its third full season under the ownership of
Mitch Goldhar this weekend and you can hardly blame the club’s fans for feeling
For a third straight year the yellow-and- blue faithful began
the season with stratospheric expectations, only to see their hopes dashed
before the campaign even hit the halfway mark.
Almost everyone connected
with Maccabi was bitterly disappointed at ending each of the past two seasons in
third place, especially as the team didn’t even come close to challenging for a
first championship since 2002/03.
And matters only got worse this
Despite having by far the highest budget in the Premier League,
Maccabi once more struggled desperately and looks set to hit a new low under
Goldhar by missing out on European qualification for the first time since the
For a second straight season, Maccabi sacked its coach
during the campaign, with Avi Nimni fired in January of last year and his
replacement Moti Ivanir thrown out in December.
Making the situation even
more frustrating for Maccabi supporters was the fact that Ivanir was seemingly
sacked without the club having a secondary plan, with youth department manager
Nir Levine taking charge on an interim basis and remaining at the helm in that
capacity for the last five months.
Ivanir was sent packing after Tel
Aviv’s title challenge unraveled following four straight defeats, but it remains
a mystery why the club didn’t bring in a coach who could resurrect its campaign
rather than a temporary replacement that ended up guiding the team for over half
While many long suffering supporters have already lost hope,
to his credit, Goldhar still believes he can turn around Israeli soccer’s most
illustrious club, as is clearly evident from his signing of Jordi Cruyff as
The team’s failings in recent campaigns convinced
Goldhar that he needed to create the position of sports director, which has
rarely existed in Israeli soccer.
He eventually elected to bring in
Cruyff, who joins Maccabi after two seasons in a similar position at Cypriot
club AEK Larnaca.
The ex-Manchester United and Barcelona forward, son of
the great Johan, landed in Israel on Tuesday to step up his preparations for
next season, with several of the squad’s players to discover in the coming days
that they will not be continuing next year.
However, the most pressing
decision facing Cruyff and Goldhar is the identity of the team’s next
Cruyff seems intent on bringing in a foreigner, the way he did in
Cyprus, with Goldhar also believing that may be the solution to the team’s
troubles after the disillusionment he experienced with local
However, it is unlikely Goldhar plans to spend the amount
required to bring in a quality European coach.
If that is the case, there
seems little sense in signing a foreigner, especially as that would mean that
none of the four most important people in the club are Israeli, with the owner a
Canadian, his representative in Israel a Cypriot (Jack Angelides) and the sports
director a Dutchman.
However, the vast majority of the players remain
Israeli and while there is some truth to the cliché that soccer is an
international language, Maccabi would be taking it to a risky extreme by
choosing a non-Israeli as its next coach.
Pressure levels at Maccabi will
be as high as ever at the start of next season, and should the team get off to a
rocky start, the press and fans will have little patience for a largely
Goldhar cannot run his club according to the whims
of the media or the team’s supporters, but the players will not be able to
ignore the inevitable media circus that follows every crisis at Maccabi Tel
An Israeli coach would help alleviate the pressure, especially Ran
After guiding Ironi Kiryat Shmona to an extraordinary
championship this season, Ben-Shimon is desperate to join Tel Aviv, looking to
prove that he can succeed at a big club after lasting just eight matches at
Maccabi before being fired early in the 2008/09 campaign.
undoubtedly one of Israel’s top coaches and he will be able to bridge the
cultural differences between the club’s management and its players.
41-year-old will also be afforded far more patience and credit in the court of
public opinion, with his achievements at Kiryat Shmona to buy him time if and
when Maccabi stumbles.
One can understand Goldhar’s desire to start
completely anew with a foreign sports director and coach who have no connection
with the ailments of the local game.
Goldhar deserves every praise for
sticking by Maccabi unlike so many other owners, but such a dramatic jolt to the
club is likely to result in aftershocks that will deny the Canadian the
stability he so craves for his club.
Stability the like of which
Ben-Shimon can provide.
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