REUVEN ATAR 370.
(photo credit: Aaf Kliger)
Reuven Atar is coming back home. The legendary Maccabi Haifa player will return to his boyhood club next season after being announced as the team’s next coach on Monday.
With current Greens coach Elisha Levy sitting by his side, Haifa owner Jacob Shahar said on Monday that he had asked Atar to be the team’s new coach on Sunday night, an offer the current Maccabi Netanya coach accepted immediately.
“I’m happy and excited to be returning to Maccabi Haifa,” said the 43- year-old Atar, who spent the first eight years of his career (1986-1994) at the club, the first of three stints in green, making a total of 375 appearances in which he scored 102 goals.
“I would like to thank Jacob Shahar for giving me the chance to guide my boyhood club. I have got four more matches before I will end a long and successful tenure at Maccabi Netanya, which gave me my first opportunity and supported me throughout the past 10 years. Considering I’ve still got goals to achieve with Netanya, I would not like to address any other matters concerning Maccabi Haifa until the end of the season.”
Atar began his coaching career at Netanya in the 2003/04 season and guided Betar Jerusalem to the State Cup in 2009 before returning to Netanya for a third tenure in September of that year.
Despite having only a meager budget at his disposal, Atar guided Netanya to a sixth-place finish and the cup semifinals last season, with the team currently in second position in the standings, fighting for European qualification.
“Elisha will be going his own way and we are very proud that we had him as our coach,” said Shahar about the departing Levy, who guided Haifa to two championships, two cup finals and a place in the group stage of the Champions League and Europa League in four seasons at the helm.
“Elisha is a very special person and we wish him all the best in the future.
“Atar has proven himself as a coach and he deserves this job. He did well at Betar and Netanya and it was only natural to bring him back home.”
Levy shouldn’t be out of a job for long, with Netanya and Hapoel Beersheba just two of the teams interested in his services.
“To be at Haifa for four years is not simple and to leave a club like this is never easy,” Levy said. “This is the best club in the country and everyone wants to work here. I’m proud and satisfied with what I’ve achieved and wish all the best to my replacement.”
After speaking about his next coach, Shahar also addressed the current crisis in Israeli soccer.
Israel Football Association chairman Avi Luzon asked for Shahar to head a committee which will make recommendations to improve the state of the game, but the Haifa owner seems set to decline.
“I don’t think I will accept his offer,” Shahar said. “I think that someone from outside of the game should chair the committee, but I would be happy to help.
“We are unhappy with the way decisions are being made at the IFA. I didn’t vote for Luzon for chairman because I knew he wouldn’t be able to disconnect himself from Maccabi Petah Tikva. I’ve been saying for 20 years now that the penalties for violent behavior must be much more significant.”
Also Monday, the IFA announced that Bnei Yehuda coach Yossi Abuksis will be Eli Gutman’s assistant at the Israel national team.
Abuksis worked with Gutman at Hapoel Tel Aviv for three-and-a-half years and will join the blue-and-white once he completes his first full season as a head coach with Bnei Yehuda.
“This is a realization of a dream,” Abuksis said. “I’m happy to be working with Eli Gutman again and I hope we can repeat the success we achieved when we last worked together.”