Uri Malmilian 311.
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
It should have been all so different.
Uri Malmilian’s return to Betar
Jerusalem seemed to be the perfect start to a fairytale story.
who turned Betar from a marginal Israeli soccer team into a local powerhouse in
the 1970s and 1980s had finally gotten his chance to lead the club from the
sideline the way he did from the playmaker position.
Malmilian took the
hard route to realizing his dream.
Unlike Eli Ohana at Betar or Avi Nimni
at Maccabi Tel Aviv, Malmilian patiently waited his turn, some might even say
refusing to profit from his iconic status.
It took 15 years of coaching
before Betar finally came calling, offering Malmilian the one job he had always
Everything was falling into place.
Betar’s squad was far
from great, but the expectations weren’t that high either. No one thought the
team would challenge for the championship.
A place in the top-six
playoffs and some exciting victories would have been more than
But it all went so drastically wrong.
defeats to start the season were just a sign of things to come, with Betar not
only failing to play to its potential, but also looking completely apathetic on
the field, something no supporter can accept.
After winning just once in
its first 10 matches, there were some indications Malmilian might be able to
turn things around when the team won three consecutive contests.
coach never lost hope, insisting that he was more than capable of eventually
guiding the side to success.
However, it quickly became evident that what
had appeared to be a match made in heaven had resulted in hell for Betar,
Malmilian and the fans.
Jerusalem won just one of its last five games,
losing its last two, and even Malmilian admitted defeat on Monday.
waited 15 years for this opportunity, but was forced to concede that his time in
Jerusalem was doomed to failure.
It seemed like everyone wanted Malmilian
to do well, even fans of opposing teams.
After all, there are few figures
in Israeli soccer who are as universally respected.
The modesty, class
and elegance Malmilian displayed as a player and a coach garnered the
appreciation of almost every soccer fan.
His coaching career never really
took off, but he proved his talents by guiding teams to Premier League promotion
on four separate occasions and it seemed almost inevitable that he would make
the most of his chance at a big club when it finally arrived.
past six months turned out to be a true nightmare for Malmilian and the entire
The legend of Uri was tarnished with every passing week and
it didn’t take long until fans too young to have seen Malmilian play for Betar
were calling for his head in vulgar fashion.
Betar was not the worst team
in the league, but it had once again returned to almost complete
Malmilian could not get through to his indifferent squad and
it became clear that he had to sacrifice his own position for the club’s greater
The team has always been the most important thing for Malmilian,
both as a player and coach, and there was never any doubt that he would clear
the stage as soon as he was convinced that he was no longer the man for the
That time arrived on Monday, with Jerusalem almost immediately
bringing in former Maccabi Haifa coach Roni Levy as a replacement.
return of Malmilian to Betar was supposed to be one of the uplifting stories of
It brought some much-needed romance back into Israeli
But the love affair between Malmilian and Betar ended in
heartbreak, reminding us all that sometimes legends are best left in our