The Last Word: Just shut up and coach

Israeli coaches persistently whine about the amount of pressure their players are under.

October 31, 2008 07:29
3 minute read.
The Last Word: Just shut up and coach

jeremy last new 298.88. (photo credit: Jeremy Last)


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The Israeli soccer season is only a few weeks old while the local basketball season has hardly started, but already the dreaded "P" word is being bandied about by coaches too weak to take responsibility. From Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, those in charge of team affairs at the major clubs in Israel can't seem to talk for more than a few minutes before whining about the amount of pressure their players are under. Take, for instance, Maccabi Tel Aviv's under-fire soccer coach Ran Ben-Shimon. His club has had a less than impressive start to the season, winning only two of its first seven league games, and most recently losing 3-2 at Maccabi Haifa with billionaire Canadian-Jewish owner Alex Shnaider watching from the stands. It goes without saying that Shnaider wasn't too happy with his team's performance, especially considering the millions he put into the club in the summer. Striking duo Maor Buzaglo and Ilya Yavorian, both of whom transferred from Bnei Sakhnin in July, have shown little of the form which made them one of the most feared tandems in the Premier League last season. And new Liberian midfielder Dulee Johnson has yet to shine for the team in yellow and blue. But there is no need for Ben-Shimon to complain about the pressure his side is under. Of course there is pressure. This is professional soccer. There will always be pressure. But it is not something that can be used as an excuse for why the team played badly. At the end of the day, it is up to the coach to pick the team and train the players to play in the formation and style of his choosing. If the results don't come, it's not because of pressure, but rather because the plan didn't work out. The players simply weren't good enough and the style and formation didn't bring the wins that had been expected. Clearly there is more media and supporter focus on the big five clubs in Israel: Maccabi Tel Aviv, Maccabi Haifa, Hapoel Tel Aviv, Betar Jerusalem and Maccabi Netanya. However the players and management that agreed to work for these organizations knew what they were getting themselves into. If they are winning then they don't complain about pressure, so if they're losing they should also keep their mouths shut. In any case, this isn't exactly the most pressurized league in the world. Imagine if Ben-Shimon had moved to coach in one of the more popular European leagues such as in Italy, Spain, France or England where attendances more than double the 14,000 that come to watch Maccabi play at Bloomfield, on a very good day, not to mention the millions of people who would be watching his team all over the world. In Israel, few people outside of the country write columns criticizing the players or coaches. Teams in England, Spain and Italy know that the fans and critics all over the world are watching and stand ready to launch scathing attacks on the team if it plays badly. Another coach using pressure as an excuse is Betar Jerusalem's Reuven Atar. There he is standing on the touchline looking like a fish out of water, and when his team loses at Ironi Kiryat Shmona, or fails to beat Maccabi Haifa at home, he starts talking about the difficult pressure of playing at Betar. There's no doubt it isn't easy, but few high powered jobs are. New Maccabi Tel Aviv point guard Carlos Arroyo, a veteran of the NBA is a different type of professional. When one reporter asked him how is coping with the pressure of playing at Maccabi he just laughed. You think this is pressure, he said, try playing in the NBA for seven seasons. Arroyo is right and Israeli sportsmen must take his lead and take control of themselves. Every position comes with difficulties. It is up to the employee to work under the pressure and get on with the job.

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