(photo credit: sinai)
The fact that Dror Kashtan has not quit his job
after his utter and complete failure as Israel coach illustrates just
how detached he has become.
national soccer team stooped to a new low in every way possible under
Kashtan, who was once known as the country's most decorated coach, but
will now be remembered as the man who alienated an entire nation from
its beloved squad.
The humiliating 1-0 defeat to Latvia
at National Stadium in
on Saturday night not only ended any lingering hope the side
had of reaching a first World Cup in 40 years, but also proved beyond a
doubt that Kashtan has piloted the team to absolute ruin and disgrace,
both in the professional, soccer sense as well as in the far more
unforgivable eyes of the once-adoring fans and media.
The national team has tasted failure many times in the past and
will continue to do so in the future, so in that regard this most
recent botched qualifying campaign is nothing exceptionally unique and
just another chapter in a long tale of futility.
To be fair, Israeli soccer's on-field problems go
far beyond Kashtan's team selection or motivational skills. Poor
infrastructure and youth development mean future Israel coaches will
continue to depend on the occasional special talent in the hope of
achieving unlikely success.
However, Kashtan inherited a bad situation and made it much
worse, which puts him squarely on the hotseat in the aftermath of the
of getting the most out of Israel's best, creating a team which plays
better than the sum of its parts, the 65-year-old's side never even
came close to playing to its (albeit mediocre) potential.
The deteriorating state of Israeli soccer may give Kashtan an
excuse for the professional side of the fiasco, but he definitely
should not be let off the hook so easily for turning the squad into a
public laughing stock.
The days in which the whole country prayed for an Israel win as
a unified frenzied mob like in many other soccer-crazed nations have
long disappeared, possibly never to return, and Kashtan shoulders much
of the responsibility for that.
He guided the national team as if it were a private club,
failing to understand that he must change his old-fashioned and brusque
approach with the fans and media, especially with his hefty salary
coming directly out of the taxpayers' pocket. Kashtan distanced the
side from the supporters, and the fact that many devotees were
shockingly going so far as to hope the team would lose to Latvia is a
direct result of that. The coach had the nerve to criticize the fans
for not buying tickets for the Latvia match, conveniently forgetting
that he is the one who made the public feel unwanted.
During Kashtan's three years at the helm, there were more empty
seats in Israel's matches at Ramat Gan than ever before and that is no
The blame for the unprecedented drop in fan interest for the
national program deservingly falls squarely on Kashtan's lap and he is
only making matters worse by refusing to do the right thing and resign.
With the limited resources Israeli soccer has to offer, it's
possible that even the world's greatest coach would fail to guide the
team to a major tournament.
However, the likes of Shlomo Sherf and Avraham Grant
the past decade that it is more than possible to at least come close to
reaching the European Championships or World Cup.
Kashtan came nowhere near even accomplishing that, despite
Israel receiving a dream qualifying group. Far more importantly,
however, Kashtan estranged the national team from the public it is
supposed to represent, and for that alone, he must go.