I cannot help but feel sorry for Elisha Levy.
You would think two Premier
League championships, progress to the Champions League and Europa League group
stages and two State Cup finals – all achieved in just over three years – would
have made him a folk hero among Maccabi Haifa fans.
But yet, Levy has
time and again been forced to endure hundreds of Haifa supporters calling for
his resignation and the appointment of Reuven Atar in his place.
Sunday’s 1-1 draw against Bnei Yehuda at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium was
disappointing. But the impetuousness and ungratefulness of many of Haifa’s
supporters shames the illustrious club.
I mean, what else has Levy got to
do? When the team wins the fans complain that it isn’t winning in style. And
when Haifa wins in style they protest that Levy isn’t using enough of the club’s
And how about when Levy fields a string of young
players from the youth department and the Greens fail to triumph? Well, you can
already work out for yourself who takes all the blame.
It seems that
regardless of what he does, Levy simply cannot win over the Haifa
After all, there is no way he can atone for his cardinal sin
of...not being Reuven Atar.
For all his virtues, Levy simply doesn’t
excite the imagination of Haifa’s faithful the way Atar does.
few players who were as beloved as Atar during his 11 seasons at Haifa. His
often audacious skills and carefree style of play enamored not just Haifa fans,
but anybody who loves soccer.
The promising start to his coaching career
quickly made him the fans’ dream candidate to guide the Greens, with Atar twice
finishing in second place with Netanya (2007- 2008) before claiming a State Cup
at Betar Jerusalem (2009).
Atar rejoined Netanya two years ago, and after
recording unexpected success last season, the team has also got this campaign
off to an encouraging start. Netanya is currently in sixth place, five points
from league-leader Hapoel Tel Aviv and one position and two points above
After losing just three matches on the way to the league title
last season, Haifa has found it difficult to maintain a similar level of
consistency this term, losing three of its first nine games and so far winning
just four of its 11 league encounters.
That presented Haifa’s spoiled
supporters with the opportunity they had long been waiting for to finally chase
Levy out of town.
It sometimes feels like some of the fans are actually
secretly hoping their team slips up so that they can intensify their campaign
The fact that Levy is already one of the most successful
coaches in Haifa’s history seems to be of little significance, as well as the
reality that he has had to work under far from ideal conditions.
the main goals set for Levy by club owner Jacob Shahar was to promote players
from within Haifa’s youth department.
Shahar admitted that he never
expected Levy to lead the team to the championship in his first season at the
helm (2008/9), but the coach managed to achieve that while also turning the
likes of Dekel Keinan, Biram Kiyal and Shlomi Arbeitman from raw potential into
In fact, Levy’s success came back to haunt him as Keinan,
Kiyal and Arbeitman all left the team for Europe after the 2009/10 season, with
a similar exodus occurring this past summer.
For a second straight year,
Levy had to rebuild the backbone of the team after Premier League player of the
season Lior Rafaelov, lethal striker Tomer Hemed and Peter Masilela all left for
the continent, while influential defender Arik Benado retired.
one of the highest budgets in the league, but Levy was under strict constraints
as he worked to reconstruct the team.
He never complained and continues
to work tirelessly in order to get Haifa back to where its fans believe it
But those same fans fail to give Levy and the team the support
they need when the going gets tough.
Levy spent most of the first 19
years of his career being disregarded and disrespected, but he finally got to
the top with Haifa after a long and often arduous road which began at
third-division Hapoel Beit She’an in 1989.
However, even after consistent
outstanding success at Haifa, he has yet to receive the respect he
Shahar’s insistence on handing Levy a one-year contract
extension at the end of each season has hardly helped, but it is those fans
which foolishly deem Levy as inadequate to coach their team that are causing the
It is safe to say that they will one day look back at
Levy’s tenure and almost fail to believe how good they once had it.
just unfortunate they will not realize that until it is too
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