The Israeli soccer world mourned the passing of former Bnei Yehuda and Hapoel Tel Aviv coach Nitzan Shirazi on Wednesday, with thousands of people attending his funeral at Kiryat Shaul Cemetery in Tel Aviv.
Shirazi lost his battle with cancer on Tuesday at the age of 43. He is survived by a wife and three children.
Shirazi left his post at Hapoel Tel Aviv in September 2012 shortly after which he underwent surgery to remove a brain tumor.
He continued to fight the disease for almost two years before ultimately succumbing to it on Tuesday.
Shirazi was universally loved and admired, with many of his former colleagues and players attending Wednesday’s funeral.
“I had the big privilege of knowing you,” said Israel Football Association chairman Avi Luzon. “This is a big loss for the soccer world. You never gave up, even in the toughest moments of your battle with this disease. I can’t believe I am standing here at your funeral. It is hard to grasp that I will never meet the smiling Nitzan again.”
After his playing career ended earlier than expected, Shirazi went into coaching. He won the double with Maccabi Tel Aviv’s youth team before joining his boyhood club, Bnei Yehuda. Shirazi guided Bnei Yehuda for four seasons, and after short stints at Maccabi Petah Tikva and Hapoel Haifa, he became the head coach of Hapoel Tel Aviv in January 2012. He guided Hapoel to the State Cup and the runners-up position, but was forced to step down after he was diagnosed with cancer later that year.
“It is so sad to part from such a young person who was at his peak,” said Israel national team coach Eli Gutman. “This is a very sad day.”