There is no shame in not finishing first. After all, only one team can win the
championship, and a club such as Maccabi Haifa has to be realistic when looking
at itself in the mirror against some of the other top Israeli
However, when a once-perennial contender like the Greens fail
repeatedly, something significant is usually being overlooked.
It is the
coach who remarkably often pays the price.
After another dismal start to
a season, Haifa’s Arik Benado has found himself cast in the role of the
scapegoat, and if matters don’t improve soon, he to will be sent to the
wilderness, just like his predecessor Reuven Atar.
Benado replaced Atar
last November after Haifa’s favorite son collapsed under the weight of
expectations. Only a few months into a three-year contract, Atar was sent
packing and the appointment of his successor seemed initially like a genius
Club owner Jacob Shachar elected to promote from within,
arguably for financial reasons, following the sacking of Atar and named Benado
as the boss of the senior side after only a couple of months as the coach of the
club’s youth team.
Atar was fired after the team had picked up just seven
points from its first nine matches, losing in four of them.
just three of the campaign’s remaining 26 league matches under Benado’s charge,
ending the season in second place.
Everything seemed to be in place for
Haifa to contend for the Premier League title once more this term, but its
challenge has yet again unraveled just two months into the
Haifa began the season with a promising 3-1 win over Ironi
Kiryat Shmona, which came on the back of five victories in six matches in Europa
However, it has since won just one match in all
competitions, suffering humbling 1-0 defeats to Hapoel Haifa and Hapoel Ra’anana
in its past two local matches.
Haifa registered just one shot on target
throughout the entire match against Ra’anana and failed to find the back of the
net for the fifth time in eight league encounters in 2013/14.
remained in 10th place in the standings with just eight points from eight
Nevertheless, Benado insisted that he remains
“I feel that I have the capabilities to lead the team out of
this situation,” he said. “If I will be told that I’m not the man for this job
then so be it. But I will do everything to help the team out of this
Benado’s words and body language seem remarkably reminiscent of
Atar’s exactly one year ago and there was no happy ending to that
There are several other similarities between their situations,
with Atar using 23 different players in his nine league games in charge of
Haifa, while Benado has so far implemented 22 players in eight
Both coaches clearly began to panic and experiment far too early
on in the season, adding momentum to the snowball effect.
Atar, Benado has also got the added difficulty of competing in the Europa League
group stage. Haifa impressed in the qualifiers, outscoring its opponents
However, the additional continental contests have made life all the
more difficult for Benado, who will need to tackle a tough encounter against
PAOK Thessaloniki in Europa action on Thursday before turning his attention back
to what is truly important, Monday’s league game with Beitar
With just a single victory from the past 11 games in Israel
and abroad, Haifa players look like they don’t believe they will ever win
another match again.
Despite league-leader Maccabi Tel Aviv suffering its
first loss of the season on Monday, falling 3-2 at Hapoel Beersheba, no one at
Haifa has any illusions of competing for the championship this
“Our goals have changed,” admitted Benado on Saturday. “We are in
the bottom half of the standings and to talk about lofty goals would be wrong.
We have a good squad which should be leading us elsewhere.
talking about a championship but about a completely different place to where we
are at the moment.”
It remains to be seen if Benado will guide the team
out of this crisis or soon follow in the footsteps of Atar.
is quite irrelevant to the midto- long-term future of the club.
Haifa also lagging behind early in the title race in 2011/12 under Elisha Levy,
this is the third straight year the club has lost hope of recording any
significant success due to a nightmare start to the season.
And when a
nightmare repeats itself time and time again, there is usually a major problem
Shachar and those running the club have been deceiving
themselves in recent seasons that their team will continue to dominate the
league forever the way it did between 2001 and 2011, winning seven of 11
Shachar refused to match Arkadi Gaydamak’s spending spree
between 2005 and 2008, and despite seeing Beitar Jerusalem claim two straight
championships (2007-08), his instincts proved to be correct with the Russian
oligarch quickly losing interest and leaving his club in
However, the case of Maccabi Tel Aviv owner Mitch Goldhar is
completely different, with the Jewish-Canadian billionaire not only having far
deeper pockets than Gaydamak, but also a far more methodical and long-term
Goldhar began to reap the fruits of his investment when Maccabi
won its first championship in 10 years last season and it already seems like no
team will be able to stop the yellow-and-blue from defending its
Haifa used to have a financial edge over its rivals, especially
over the long run due to Shachar’s steady investment, but that hasn’t been the
case for quite a while.
While it probably still has the best facilities
in the country and a successful youth team, homegrown talent has struggled to
find its way into the lineup for several years.
Assuming Shachar has no
intention of surpassing or even equaling the budget of Maccabi Tel Aviv, Haifa
needs to find another course of action that will help it close the financial
Replacing coaches on a yearly basis will not do the
Haifa needs to wake up to the new reality and adjust to it as soon
as possible. Otherwise, the nightmare will just continue to repeat