Gili Landau 311.
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
You will not find a more eloquent or elegant speaker in Israeli soccer than Gili
But in the world of sports, there are few things that are worse
than sounding too intelligent, especially if you flaunt it at every
Landau has spent much of his stop-start coaching career
languishing in the National League (second division) and until recently it
seemed like that would never change.
But an unexpected turn of events has
put Landau on the verge of an historic accomplishment as Ironi Kiryat Shmona
coach, giving him an opportunity to forever change the way he will be remembered
as a coach.
I write coach, because his legendary status as a player was
cemented long ago.
The 54-year-old Landau spent his entire playing career
at Hapoel Tel Aviv (1974-1990) and will forever be revered by the Red fans for
scoring two memorable, yet disputed, winners for the club, the first in the
State Cup final in 1983, with the second handing Hapoel the league championship
in the 1985/86 season.
However, his coaching career never took off and he
spent no more than two consecutive seasons at his previous eight
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Landau had an opportunity to prove he belongs with Israel’s top
coaches eight years ago, but he lasted just five league matches at Hapoel Tel
Aviv in 2004/05 and soon returned to the National League.
relegation to the second division with Hapoel Petah Tikva last season (not for
the first time in his career), but Kiryat Shmona owner Izzy Sheratzky saw
something in the coach that convinced him to place Landau at the helm of the
While Petah Tikva ended 2011/12 in last place, Landau
was bestowed plenty of praise for his work with the bankrupt team, which showed
admirable fighting spirit despite beginning the season with a nine-point
deduction due to its financial problems.
However, Sheratzky’s decision to
bring in Landau in place of Ran Ben-Shimon, the architect of Kiryat Shmona’s
success, was still largely met with raised eyebrows.
After all, his
resume lacked any notable achievements and he had very little to offer in
European experience, an important factor considering Kiryat Shmona’s hopes of
reaching the Champions League group stage this season.
There were those
who suggested that Landau was given the job because he was an ideal “yes man”
for Sheratzky, who believes he was never given due credit for Kiryat Shmona’s
stunning success last season.
There was also a claim that it was Landau’s
social skills which got him the job, with the media supposedly pushing his
Landau is in fact a media favorite, but only because he
refuses to use worn-out clichés and provides entertaining sound bites which
Take this past Monday for example.
Landau spoke of the strengths of BATE Borisov, his team’s opponent in the
Champions League playoffs on Wednesday night, and elaborated on what his side
must do to advance, he also provided a charming parable.
Landau told of
how his grandma used to tell him that “even if you may never reach the moon, you
should never stop dreaming about it”.
Landau was of course trying to
explain that Kiryat Shmona should never give up on the dream of reaching the
Champions League even if the odds aren’t in its favor, but he did so in a way no
other coach in Israeli sports would have.
His articulacy may result in
many of his colleagues treating him as a laughing stock, but regardless of the
real reason behind his appointment at Kiryat Shmona, Landau now has the chance
to prove that he belongs with the very best in his business.
result on the road against Borisov tonight and progress to the group stage in
the return leg in Israel next week will not only make Kiryat Shmona one of the
smallest clubs ever to play in European soccer’s showcase competition, but will
also silence his critics once and for all, and perhaps even leave the loquacious
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