Sinai Says: Maccabi Haifa in disarray after clumsy break-up with Luzon

But Haifa’s problems obviously go far beyond Guy Luzon.

December 13, 2017 02:51
4 minute read.
Sinai Says: Maccabi Haifa in disarray after clumsy break-up with Luzon

Despite all his efforts, Guy Luzon has become the latest name on the ever-growing list of coaches to have failed to restore Maccabi Haifa to its former glory.. (photo credit: ERAN LUF)

The scene could have hardly been more awkward.

In this day and age, the news of the firing of a coach is usually made on a club’s official website or via a text message to the media after which it may take months until those affected speak about the matter, often due to contractual issues.

But Guy Luzon’s career has been anything but orthodox and Saturday night was no different.

Minutes after handing in his resignation as the coach of Maccabi Haifa, Luzon sat on the podium at Haifa Stadium and listened to club spokesperson Dudu Bazak read the official statement announcing he had guided the team for the last time.

“Club president Jacob Shachar and technical director Mo Allach held a talk with coach Guy during which they agreed that the sides will part ways on good terms. We wish Guy luck. He will always be part of us,” said Bazak before Luzon delivered his brief comment.

“I arrived at Maccabi Haifa with a great challenge to turn the past six seasons to a better season. Unfortunately, we were unable to achieve that. I only have good things to say about the club, the fans and everyone with whom I cooperated. I wish the club only success. We parted ways as friends and on good terms,” said Luzon with a bitter smile before leaving the podium of the press conference room for the last time.

It was of course no coincidence that Luzon chose to emphasize the fact that he was only the latest on a long list of coaches to have failed to return the Greens to their former glory.

The club that dominated Israeli soccer in the first decade of the 21st century, setting the standard in local and continental play, has lost its way over recent years.

Haifa has everything a club needs to succeed – a wealthy and experienced owner, an illustrious past, a loyal fan base and a new stadium.

Nevertheless, it keeps falling woefully short of expectations, and its coaches have paid the price every time.

Luzon offered his resignation following the disappointing 1-1 home draw with Hapoel Ashkelon that left the team with just four wins from 13 matches this season. Haifa sits in eighth place, 14 points behind leader Hapoel Beersheba.

The Greens have won only one of their past seven games, ending the first round of action with only 16 points, their worst return at this stage of the season since the 1987/88 campaign.

Luzon joined Haifa in February, replacing Rene Meulensteen. He guided the team to a sixth-place finish last season, and despite being given credit to rebuild the squad during the summer, Haifa once more got a season off to a disastrous start.

Luzon guided the Greens in 27 league matches in total, with the team winning only 13 of them and failing to find the back of the net in 14 of those games.

The only coach with a worst record at the club over the past 35 years is Reuven Atar. He was sent packing after just nine league matches in 2012.

But Haifa’s problems obviously go far beyond Luzon.

Owner Shachar used to pride himself at not sacking coaches mid-season, with four different coaches guiding the side to seven league championships between 2000 and 2011, and all of them leaving in an orderly manner at the end of a season.

But that all changed five years ago when Atar was fired only three months into the campaign. Arik Benado took his place and was allowed to finish the following season as well. But Serbian Aleksandar Stanojevic lasted only four months, being given his marching orders in December 2014.

After Marco Balbul’s short stint, Roni Levy took charge for a season, but was then fired in July 2016 before the team even began its league campaign, clashing time and again with the club’s new Norwegian sports director Tor-Kristian Karlsen.

Understanding he has to keep up with the changing times, Shachar finally created the position of sports director at his club. But Karlsen was never truly in control, leaving following one season after Luzon was appointed as coach despite his objections.

Luzon’s predecessor – Sir Alex Ferguson’s former assistant at Manchester United, Rene Meulensteen – was in charge for only six months, four months fewer than Luzon.

While Karlsen’s time at the club was bitterly disappointing, Shachar understood there was no returning to the days that he signed players based on recommendations from friends and walked into the dressing room at halftime to give the squad a pep talk.

He hired Allach, who served as the technical director of Eredivisie club Vitesse over the past four years, to run all professional matters last month.

Allach was reportedly interested in bringing in a Dutch countryman to guide the team, but he certainly wasn’t planning on doing so after one month and midway through the season when his options are limited.

In the meantime, Dutchman Rob Maas, who was hired last week as an assistant coach, will guide the side in Saturday’s match against Bnei Yehuda.

It seems that Shachar, and the rest of the decision-makers at the club, finally comprehend that the only way forward is to give a serious professional the time and resources he needs to succeed.

Allach’s first month has been a crash course on the way things work in Israeli soccer and revealed the magnitude of the task he has taken on.

He may have been given a contract until the end of the 2018/19 season, but after all that has transpired over his first month, and in particular this past Saturday, he knows the clock is already ticking.

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