Sinai Says: Poor Itzhak Schum

There is little doubt that he quite simply had to be fired from his job as coach of Betar Jerusalem.

February 24, 2010 05:53
3 minute read.
Sinai Says: Poor Itzhak Schum

Allon sinai 88. (photo credit: Courtesy)

There is little doubt that Itzhak Schum quite simply had to be fired from his job as coach of Betar Jerusalem.

However, even the most callous of Betar fans must have felt sorry for the 61-year-old veteran while watching him hobble towards the team bus following the 3-2 defeat at Hapoel Haifa last Saturday.

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Much like a St. Bernard, Schum’s face almost always seems to be frozen in a state of discontent. Nevertheless, there was no mistaking the true sorrow in his eyes after being told by club chairman Itzik Kornfein that his second tenure at Betar was over.

For Schum knew that not only was his time in Jerusalem up, but also that his coaching career at the top level may have quite possibly finally drawn to an end.

After a glorious 24 year playing career at Hapoel Kfar Saba, which included one league championship and two State Cup triumphs, as well as an appearance in the 1970 World Cup with Israel, Schum moved into coaching and achieved almost immediate success.

In his first season on the sidelines, he led unheralded Betar Tel Aviv to a third-place finish in the top-flight and was quickly chosen by good friend Shlomo Scharf to become his assistant on the national team, a post he held for nine years.

Schum was confident of realizing his ambition and being named head coach, but it was Avraham Grant who was eventually handed the prestigious job.

After one season at Kfar Saba, Schum took charge of Maccabi Haifa and, despite missing out on the league title, made history by guiding the team to the Champions League group stage.

However, once more he was on the move after a single season, going abroad to coach Greek giant Panathinaikos.

Schum may have only lasted just over one season in the Greek capital, but his time at the club will not be forgotten for a long time. He led Panathinaikons to a league and cup double, the only titles the club has won since 1996.

Short stints in Bulgaria and Russia followed, and he also failed to last a full season at Hapoel Tel Aviv, despite guiding the side to UEFA Cup success.

It is not difficult to spot the recurring theme of Schum’s career. Time and again he has led his teams to glory, only to soon fall out of favor with his employers or players.

His two terms in Jerusalem were no different.

Schum led Betar to a first league and cup double in club history in the 2007/08 season, but following a humbling ousting from the Champions League qualifiers by Poland’s Wisla Krakow, he was sent packing by Arkadi Gaydamak.

At the start of the current season, Schum returned to Betar, agreeing to wave NIS 1 million still owed to him.

However, the team struggled from the start of the season and Schum’s relationship with the players deteriorated with every week that passed. The situation was so serious that Betar players seemed to be playing to lose their matches in order to get rid of the coach.

Even with its complicated financial state, Kornfein had no choice and, after the team won just one of its last nine league matches, he sent Schum on his way.

Schum’s coaching career may not be over just yet, but his dream of becoming Israel coach, which once looked so promising, is as good as done.

Instead of being remembered as one of the all-time greats, the man with the saddest face in Israeli soccer is going to end his coaching career on a low. He scarcely deserves this fortune, but the fickle life of a soccer coach means he will go down as yet another casualty of the harsh nature of his profession.

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