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Photo by: Uzi Gal
Benado named as Greens’ full-time coach
By ALLON SINAI
11/26/2012
Mac Haifa moves on from Ben-Shimon courting; Kiryat Shmona surprises Bnei Yehuda.
 
Just over a year since he retired from active play, Arik Benado was handed the chance of a lifetime on Sunday when he was officially announced as the new Maccabi Haifa coach.

Benado worked as an assistant to Elisha Levy in the 2011/12 campaign following his retirement and began this season as the club’s youth team coach.

However, following the sacking of Reuven Atar less than two weeks ago, Benado was promoted to guide the senior side on an interim basis and was given the job until the end of the season on Sunday after the Greens failed to complete the signing of their top-target Ran Ben-Shimon.

“This is the happiest day of my life,” Benado told the club’s official website.

“I am proud and privileged to be the coach of Maccabi Haifa and from this moment on I’m focused on the most important job I have been given since I became involved in soccer.

“I thank President Jacob Shahar and the management for the faith they have shown in me and will do my all so that this club will succeed.”

After arriving at Haifa this past summer with sky-high expectations, being one of the club’s most beloved players, Atar was sacked just nine matches into the league season, with the Greens picking up only seven points, winning a single game.

Haifa didn’t fare much better last week with Benado on the sidelines, drawing 0-0 against Bnei Sakhnin.

Much like Atar, Benado is also one of Haifa’s all-time greatest players, first establishing his place with the senior side in the 1993/94 season. He made a total of 399 appearances for the Greens until his retirement in 2011, also spending two separate stints with Betar Jerusalem (1994-96 and 2006-2010).

Benado, who will celebrate his 39th birthday next week, ended his career as the all-time leader in Premier League appearances (565) and still holds the Israel national team cap record (94).

He has also got nine championships and three State Cups to his name.

However, despite his illustrious playing career he has almost no experience as a coach and inherits a floundering squad.

Shahar had hoped to name Ben-Shimon as Atar’s replacement, but failed to reach a deal with his current club, AEK Larnaca of Cyprus.

The owner said on Sunday that the decision regarding Benado was already made last week but was held up as he has yet to acquire a UEFA Pro coaching license.

As a result, he will be joined on the bench by youth department manager Shmulik Hanin, who has the required credentials.

“Arik was the natural candidate and we have already done something similar in the past with Roni Levy,” said Shahar, refereeing to Haifa’s coach between 2003 and 2008, who was also promoted directly from the youth team to the senior side.

“We considered bringing in an experienced coach for this difficult mission.

We had at least four foreign candidates and several Israeli ones and we looked into the option of Ran Ben-Shimon.

But we were stunned by the sum Larnaca requested for his release.”

Benado’s first match as the Greens’ full-time coach will aptly be against Betar Jerusalem at Teddy Stadium on Monday, the only team he ever played for other than Haifa.

Betar has been on fire in recent weeks, winning four of its last five matches to climb up to fifth place in the standings.

Also Monday, Hapoel Tel Aviv hosts Hapoel Beersheba.

On Sunday, Ironi Kiryat Shmona surprised Bnei Yehuda on the road with a 2-0 win.

Youngster Ofir Mizrahi scored on his debut to give the visitors the lead in the 24th minute and Shimon Abu Hazeira secured all three points with a goal in stoppage time.

The win took Kiryat Shmona up to seventh place with 15 points, just one point behind fourth-placed Bnei Yehuda, which lost for the first time in four matches.
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