Macabi Tel Aviv owner Mitch Goldhar 311.
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Mark your calendars. January 4, 2011 – the day Maccabi Tel Aviv soccer was born
The only thing wrong with team owner Mitch Goldhar’s decision to
sack manager Avi Nimni on Tuesday was the fact that it was long
Goldhar may have purchased the yellow-and-blue in August 2009,
but only now will he finally have control.
No player should ever be
bigger than the club, but Nimni came awfully close.
There were times when
the adulation by some of Nimni’s fans was almost cult-like, and while he might
not have pushed for it, Nimni sure didn’t discourage such displays.
is no doubt that Avi Nimni is one of the greatest players in Maccabi Tel Aviv’s
illustrious history. His four championships and four State Cups, and 174 goals
in 429 league appearances, are unprecedented accomplishments in the history of
the yellow- and-blue.
But there has always been another side to the
At the start of the 2000/01 season, former Israel coach Shlomo
Sharf was forced out of the club with the campaign only two games old when
then-owner Loni Hertzikovitch took Nimni’s side following a clash with
In the summer of 2003, coach Nir Klinger did the unthinkable when
he threw both Nimni and Tal Banin out of the club for creating a destructive
rift in the squad.
Nimni spent two seasons in exile at Betar Jerusalem,
but he had plotted his return from day one, with no player daring to wear his
hallowed number eight jersey during his time in Jerusalem and hundreds of the
club’s supporters attending their side’s matches in black shirts in protest of
their hero’s expulsion.
The pressure from the stands eventually resulted
in his return to the roster ahead of the 2005/06 season and he has reigned over
the club ever since.
Owners have come and gone, but Nimni, who retired
from active play at the end of the 2007/08 season, remained ever
Whether he held the position of general manager, coach or just
manager, everyone knew that the 38-year-old was the man in charge, and until
yesterday, no one dared to challenge that.
However, Nimni made his
biggest mistake in November 2008 when he stepped down from the front office to
manage the team in place of the sacked Ran Ben-Shimon.
As soon as he was
directly in charge of the team’s results on the field, he became vulnerable to
criticism, and it was only a matter of time until even his loyal supporters
would begin to wonder whether his presence had become a liability.
finishing in sixth place in the 2008/09 campaign, Nimni guided the team to third
position last season, but it was still no where near to becoming a factor in the
Goldhar spared no expense ahead of this season in the hope of
seeing Maccabi claim just its second championship in 15 years, allowing Nimni to
bring in virtually every player he wished for.
With 12 new additions and
a budget of over NIS 100 million, the expectations were sky high, but that only
made the disappointment all the more difficult to take.
currently be in third place, but it has picked up just one of a possible 18
points in its matches against top-six opponents and was thoroughly outplayed in
the 3-0 defeat at Maccabi Haifa on Monday which left it eight points adrift of
In 76 league matches under Nimni’s guidance, Maccabi
won 35 times, drew 19 matches and lost 22, a poor success rate of 54.38
Despite the fact that he clearly wanted to lead Tel Aviv back to
its glory days, Nimni just wasn’t the right man to coach the side and the
growing criticism among the team’s fans finally allowed Goldhar to send him
packing on Tuesday.
Twenty Special Patrol Unit policemen were on hand at
the team’s Kiryat Shalom training grounds ahead of Tuesday’s session in the
expectation that there might be unrest among the supporters.
But very few
fans bothered to get themselves to Kiryat Shalom, perhaps proving that it is
indeed the end of an era.
It remains to be seen who will replace Nimni at
the helm and if anybody else can guide the team to instant success.
thing, however, is for sure. Nothing will ever be the same at Maccabi Tel