Reuven Atar must be an awful poker player. The Maccabi Haifa coach has
one of those expressive faces that reveal all. You could watch any of his
post-match press conferences without sound and still you would know not only if
his team won or lost but exactly what Atar felt about it.
Maccabi Netanya coach looked like a man in the midst of torture in his
post-match TV interview after Monday’s 1-1 draw against Bnei Yehuda, which left
Haifa in the relegation zone with just six points from eight matches, having
still won only a single game so far this season.
He seemed close to
breaking down in tears when he spoke about how Haifa had reached a “catastrophic
situation” before apologizing to fans and saying that he is “ashamed” of what
has unfolded since he took charge of the team in the summer.
Haifa was of
course supposed to be one of the main contenders for the Premier League
championship, but after its worse ever start to a campaign it would now happily
settle for a season of mediocrity.
Two days after his near-meltdown, Atar
was fully energized and in a combative mood once more as he spoke confidently
about leading Haifa out of the crisis.
“I’m not giving up and I will
never give up,” said Atar on Wednesday with an expression that echoed that exact
“Clearly we are in a bad situation, but I still believe that
together with the players we can get the team out of this
“Sometimes you need to hit rock bottom before you begin to
climb back up.”
Haifa owner Jacob Shahar continues to back Atar and the
usually impatient fans remain largely supportive of the coach after calling for
the appointment of the Greens playing legend for so many years before finally
being granted their wish.
“I accept all the criticism,” added Atar, who
takes his team to Hapoel Ramat Hasharon on Saturday.
everything can change with one match. And that will happen.
“As crazy as
this may sound to all the skeptics, you will see that in two months time
everything will be different.”
Elsewhere Saturday, Betar Jerusalem visits
Bnei Sakhnin in the traditionally heated showdown that pits two in-form teams
looking to gather momentum after a slow start to the season.
Sakhnin picked up a combined three points from their first five matches of the
campaign, but both have since caught fire to surge up the standings.
Rikan’s stoppage-time goal against Ramat Hasharon last Saturday gave Betar its
third straight win and took it up to fifth place in the table, while Sakhnin won
its second consecutive game and extended its unbeaten streak to three matches
with a 2-0 victory over Hapoel Haifa.
Ashdod SC can climb to first place
for at least 24 hours should it triumph at rock-bottom Hapoel Haifa on
League-leader Maccabi Tel Aviv visits Hapoel Tel Aviv in the
much-hyped derby on Sunday.
Also Saturday, Bnei Yehuda hosts Maccabi
Netanya and Hapoel Beersheba visits Hapoel Acre, while Hapoel Ramat Gan welcomes
Ironi Kiryat Shmona on Sunday.