Gabi Kanikovski has been one of the bright spots in Hapoel Acre’s season to date and will be aiming to score for a third straight match on Saturday when his team visits Hapoel Beersheba at Turner Stadium..
(photo credit: MAOR ELKASLASI)
Gabi Kanikovski was earmarked as a potential future star in Israeli soccer long ago. But it is his goal celebrations over recent weeks that are making headlines.
The 20-year-old Israeli midfielder, who is playing for Hapoel Acre this season after joining the team on a loan deal from Maccabi Tel Aviv, has found the back of the net in each of his side’s past two matches, including scoring the winner in the 1-0 victory over Ashdod SC two weeks ago.
While Kanikovski’s play has impressed, what has really caught attention has been his goal celebrations with a yarmulke.
After scoring in each of the past two matches, Kanikovski has run to his team’s bench where he was handed a yarmulke before placing it on his head.
“I’m a religious person and I come from a religious home,” said Kanikovski after the match against Ashdod. “I’m proving that you can combine soccer and religion. I’ve walked to the stadium for matches on Shabbat from a young age.”
Kanikovski will be able to drive to Turner Stadium in Beersheba on Saturday, with the postponed encounter against Hapoel Beersheba to begin three hours after the end of Shabbat.
Kanikovski, who is a member of the Israel under-21 national team and started in Tuesday’s 5-2 loss to Germany in 2019 European Championship qualification, left Maccabi Tel Aviv as a teenager as they refused to pay for his Shabbat hotel stays.
He returned to his hometown of Ra’anana and the local youth department, but when he was 16, Maccabi already agreed to cover the costs of his religious observance, understanding it was in danger of losing a big talent to a rival.
The rest of the Premier League won’t be back in action until next weekend, with the international break being extended by another week in Israel to allow clubs to resurface their pitches.
The match between Acre and Beersheba was postponed from September due to the reigning champion’s participation in the Europa League.
Beersheba enters the match as a firm favorite, targeting a fifth straight league victory that would take it tied on points with Hapoel Haifa in first place.
Beersheba will be playing for the first time since its captain Elyaniv Barda had to be resuscitated and required treatment with a defibrillator after collapsing during the team’s training session last week. The 35-yearold striker was released from hospital earlier this week but it is still unknown, if and when he will return to action.