An Israeli striker making his mark abroad

Blue-and-white soccer star Munas Dabbur reflects on European success, Nazareth origins and goals.

ISRAELI STRIKER Munas Dabbur has settled into his role with Bundesliga club Hoffenheim and is a key factor in the blue-and-white’s World Cup qualifying campaign. (photo credit: PABLO MORANO/REUTERS)
ISRAELI STRIKER Munas Dabbur has settled into his role with Bundesliga club Hoffenheim and is a key factor in the blue-and-white’s World Cup qualifying campaign.
(photo credit: PABLO MORANO/REUTERS)
Munas Dabbur has been lighting up fields around Europe since leaving Israel and Maccabi Tel Aviv back in 2014, when he headed west and signed with Grasshopper in Zurich.
Ever since making his first foray outside of the Holy Land’s friendly confines, all Dabbur has done is score, score and score some more, whether it has been Switzerland, Austria and now Germany.
After featuring in the draw against Scotland, the loss to Denmark and just ahead of the Israel National Team’s World Cup qualification match against Moldova on Wednesday, The Jerusalem Post was able to secure an exclusive interview that was conducted by the Bundesliga about the Israeli striker’s time so far with TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, his experience playing together with superstar Erling Haaland, as well as his upbringing and much more.
While Dabbur was playing youth soccer in his hometown Nazareth, many clubs in and outside Israel were interested in acquiring his talents.
“Yes that’s true,” said Dabbur. “I scored many, many goals during the years I played in the youth teams in Nazareth, my hometown. I have to say we didn’t play in the best leagues, but still I scored over 100 goals every year. It’s also not realistic, sometimes you win 25-0 or something like that so I had the chance to score a lot of goals. Year after year, I scored many, many goals and a little bit of interest started to come from big clubs in Israel.
At first, playing in Europe seemed like a stretch.
“I remember I also had some interest from Dutch teams and other teams in Europe, but going to Europe early was nothing I was thinking about, especially because my family and my mom didn’t want that, she always wanted me next to her. Finally, I grew up next to her and continued playing football in my hometown alongside that. At some moment though I had to join Maccabi Tel Aviv. This was a step to leave my comfort zone, my home. From there, my career started to grow of course.”
Since moving to Europe, Dabbur always had a knack of scoring against Bayern Munich and Germany’s Manuel Neuer, one of the best goalkeepers in the world.
“I was lucky to score three times – I think I have played three times against Bayern and scored three goals. It’s an amazing statistic, let’s put it like that. It’s very special of course to score against the best goalkeeper in the world and one of the best in history, for me at least, and for a lot of people. It’s a dream come true to be honest. When I signed for Hoffenheim and you start to think about the Bundesliga and the teams in the Bundesliga, you are thinking about the two biggest clubs, Bayern and Dortmund. Of course, you want to score against both, you try your best every game but it is something really special to score against Bayern Munich or Borussia Dortmund.”
One of the challenges that the 28-year-old Israeli has faced since moving to Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga in 2020 is keeping his statistics consistent with what he had been used to in Austria, as the German league happens to be a notch above his former stomping ground.
“It was just as simple as you say but more difficult, it is a more competitive league, this is no secret. I have to say I was a little bit unlucky as well, starting last year with a big injury, I was out for two months. This year I started really well, then the coronavirus situation came, I was out again for one-and-a-half, two months. Then to come back wasn’t easy, to play, not to play – luckily I’ve played in the last few weeks and I scored the goals. I’m sure I have to score much more and I can score much more. I’m sure it will come in the near future though, hopefully.”
Dortmund star striker Haaland and Dabbur shared the same pitch at Red Bull Salzburg and have developed quite a relationship over the years.
“We talk a lot, we’ve been in contact since I left Salzburg, he’s a great guy and I don’t have to say a lot about football because he’s doing great things,” noted Dabbur. “I’m so happy for him and very proud of him also. We had a short time in Salzburg, but we were always connected and are still in contact. He’s a good friend.”
Haaland has become one of the hottest names in Europe and playing in the Bundesliga has continued to help his profile on the field of play, Dabbur stated.
“To be honest, after what he did in Salzburg and especially in the Champions League and he decided to go to Dortmund I was sure he was going to explode. His decision to join Dortmund, I said immediately, was the perfect step for him, it was what he needed, the ball in the box and he will do the job. In Dortmund he will get this enough times during each game. From the first moment, you could see his power, his qualities, his energy, his killer eyes in front of goal. He doesn’t see anything other than the net, you could see that immediately.”
Dabbur hasn’t had the opportunity to play in front of the local fans just yet, but the level of play that the Bundesliga is second to none.
“The power, the intensity – you can get a chance to score in every moment. Most of the time, the games are open and you know that both teams are trying to win. This makes the game better with a higher quality and a higher level. I love this. Of course, you miss the fans. It was always something special for me to watch Bundesliga TV, a lot because of the fans. Now it’s unlucky that since I’ve been here we’ve played without fans. I’m looking forward to it, when the fans are back it will be better of course.”
As for his new home at Hoffenheim under head coach Sebastian Hoeness, Dabbur said that thing couldn’t be better.
“I can only say top things about the club because it’s a well-organized club, very calm, very professional with a lot of people who feel like a family here. It feels so comfortable, so nice to come here every morning and see the guys, see the people here. Such an amazing place of course. I feel so good here. The city and the area is not that big, but this has an advantage. You can focus on football and enjoy the family time, especially if you are a family guy. It suits me perfectly, I think.
“As for working under coach Sebastian Hoeness, it’s very comfortable. He’s a very good guy and a very good coach. Of course, it’s his first season now and you see the things he’s trying to give us and tell us, it’s very clear for everyone what he’s asking and this is a very good thing, that players can understand the coach. His way of training, I like these kinds of coaches, they are calm, they know what they want. He’s a very familial guy, very honest, you can always be in contact with him, also away from the pitch, this is really nice.”
However, there have been a lot of ups and downs, with challenges and expectations that Dabbur and his club would like to meet by season’s end.
“You mentioned it, there are a lot of ups and downs, especially this year. We started really well with two wins, one against Bayern. Then we had the corona situation hurt us a lot. With the Europa games you’re a little bit tired, you’re not always 100% ready for the next Bundesliga game and the Bundesliga is always aggressive, the level is very high and the intensity too. All these kinds of things, with a lot of injuries in the team, didn’t really help us. We showed our character already, we showed we can win against the big teams.
“We are doing that well but still, I agree that we have to improve in other things. We are working on that. Now and in the next few weeks we will have more time to work during the week to prepare for the Saturday or Sunday game and I think this can make the difference. We are not so far away from the European places, but of course we have to look game to game to get the points. Everything is possible. This is our goal, this was our goal from the beginning of the season and we will do our best to reach it.”
As for his personal goals going forward, Dabbur is modest in his desires for the future.
“Of course to reach my goals, to achieve things and to win titles I have to be honest. It is one of my goals and dreams of course. My personal things, I have to say just to have a healthy family, for all of us to stay healthy, to stay close to my family, to see my children grow up next to me, these are my wishes.”