Maccabi Tel Aviv owner Mitch Goldhar’s decision to extend coach Moti Ivanir’s
contract through the 2011/12 season is as courageous as it is
After being thrashed 4-0 by Ironi Kiryat Shmona two weeks ago,
Tel Aviv was humbled 3-0 by Maccabi Netanya on Saturday, sparking speculation
that Ivanir’s position is in jeopardy.
It looked to be a foregone
conclusion that even if he would survive until the end of the season, he would
certainly not be at the helm at the start of the next campaign.
following years of unrealistic expectations and an impossible chase after
immediate success – and despite the pressure to completely overhaul the club
once more following such a disappointing season – Goldhar seems determined to
bring stability to the team and give Ivanir the time he needs to prove his
“Moti Ivanir possesses important qualities we value at Maccabi Tel
Aviv both as coach and as a person: humility, courage and determination,”
Goldhar said on Tuesday in a statement announcing the coach’s contract
extension. “Such convictions are aligned with the philosophy of the club and my
vision for its future.
“While many new players were added to the squad
last summer, this was never a substitute for the commitment and vision for the
long term: to building from the ground up, focusing on the development of our
Moti’s experience with the youth further aligns him with
Ivanir has come under intense scrutiny in recent weeks
and was quickly becoming the scapegoat for the disarray in which the team finds
itself, even though he came on board just over two months ago to replace Avi
With a budget of well over NIS 100 million and 13 new players,
Nimni and Yossi Mizrahi were expected to build an all-star team at Kiryat
More than enough stars were brought in, but gelling them into a
team proved to be beyond the capabilities of Nimni, and considering the current
state of affairs, many experts began to question whether Ivanir may also be out
of his depth.
Maccabi won four of its first five league games under
Ivanir, but after the initial effect of sacking Nimni wore off, it became clear
that the mistakes made in the building of the squad at the start of the season
were far more problematic than anyone had predicted.
failure arrived when the team was knocked out of the State Cup at the first
hurdle by Hapoel Petah Tikva, and matters threatened to completely spiral out of
control in recent weeks.
Maccabi has won just one of its past five league
games, losing to Hapoel Haifa, Kiryat Shmona and Netanya, who have played better
than expected this season, but are still far from being among the league’s top
And it’s not just that Tel Aviv has played
Maccabi’s players seem to be almost apathetic to the side’s
situation, breaking down mentally with remarkable ease.
They have simply
seemed incapable of coping with the pressure of playing for the underachieving
For example, throughout the season, Tel Aviv rarely managed to
mount a comeback after conceding the first goal of the match.
went a goal down in 11 of its 27 encounters so far this season, losing in eight
of them, drawing twice and only once successfully coming back from a goal down
to claim a win.
One of the main reasons behind Ivanir’s hiring was the
belief that the disciplinarian could shake up the squad and get it to play to
However, the fact that Ivanir was only handed a contract
until the end of the season came back to bite Goldhar, with the millionaire
players believing that it would be the coach who would pay the price for the
failures while they hold a guaranteed deal for next season.
All of that
changed on Tuesday.
The decision to keep Ivanir at the helm for at least
one more season is an important step in the right direction, but it will be
worth little if the club runs out of patience and returns to making panic-driven
decisions. After giving its youngsters a chance last season and finishing in
third position, Maccabi cast them aside in favor of expensive
It then placed unnecessary pressure on the players to come up
with immediate results instead of focusing on building for the long
But instant success very rarely occurs in sports, especially in
Tel Aviv fans have grown up expecting their team to be the
dominant force in Israeli soccer, but the fact of the matter is that in the past
30 years, the club has won just four championships, and if it doesn’t give
itself the time it needs to rebuild, it will continue to flounder time and
This season has cost Goldhar dearly, but it might not have been an
entire waste of time and money.
Should the club build on its decision to
hand Ivanir the reigns for another season and finally stick by a patient and
methodical long-team plan, the 2010/11 season may be remembered as a turning
point in the yellow-and-blue’s history rather than just another disappointing
year of email@example.com