Bruchian bucks the trend, inspires local youngsters

As Italian referee Paulo Tagliavento blew the final whistle at Teddy Stadium on Wednesday night, all eyes were focused on one individual.

jeremy last better pic (photo credit: Courtesy)
jeremy last better pic
(photo credit: Courtesy)
As Italian referee Paulo Tagliavento blew the final whistle at Teddy Stadium on Wednesday night, all eyes were focused on one individual. Aviram Bruchian had played the game of his life against Polish champion Wisla Krakow in the UEFA Champions League second qualifying round first leg, scoring two quality second half goals in the 2-1 win to put Betar Jerusalem in the driving seat ahead of next week's second leg. With all the multi-million dollar signings funded by Betar's sugar daddy Arkadi Gaydamak in coach Itzhak Schum's starting 11, it was somewhat ironic that it was a former youth team player who was head and shoulders above his teammates in class and persistence on Wednesday. Bruchian is the poster boy for the Betar faithful, the supremely talented midfielder who has come up through the ranks from the club's competitive junior system, biding his time before making a very strong case for a permanent place on the right wing. If that weren't enough, the feel good story is completed with the 23-year-old's family connections. Bruchian is the nephew of none other than Uri Malmilian, arguably the greatest player to ever pull on the yellow and black jersey of Betar Jerusalem. Back in the 1970s and '80s when Malmilian drove defenders crazy playing for Jerusalem at the old YMCA stadium, the players representing city clubs generally came from local neighborhoods. The Betar team which won the 1976 State Cup, the yellow and black's first national trophy, nearly all hailed from the capital, creating a far greater bond between the players and the supporters. Over the years Israeli clubs have moved further and further from their roots, not only employing players from outside the city, but many from other countries. This is no unique phenomenon, but rather a trend which has been repeated in professional leagues around the world, most notably in England where Arsenal FC is infamous for regularly fielding teams made up entirely of foreigners. To see Bruchian rise to the top of a team of potential superstars being paid top dollar reignited the flame of romanticism in a sport which has often been clouded by financial excess. Like his uncle, Bruchian grew up in Jerusalem and made his debut at a young age. Since he first played for Betar in August 2002, his overriding quality has been that of patience. He was one of a group of youngsters who emerged under the leadership of then coach Eli Ohana three or four years ago. But while the likes of Maor Melikson and Eliran Danin became frustrated with their lack of opportunities, Bruchian kept on pushing, putting in some superb performances whenever he got the chance. Melikson, a tricky but over confident winger, left for Maccabi Haifa - where he failed to hold down a first team place. He is now without a club after he was relegated with Hapoel Kfar Saba last season. Danin was impatient and didn't make the most of his chances. With Schum prefering the veteran David Amsalem on the left of defense, Danin was sent on loan to Haifa, where he hardly played. He is now back at Teddy but is unlikely to have any chance of dethroning Yoav Ziv from the left back position any time soon. But Bruchian is here, and here to stay. On Wednesday night his play was often mesmerizing as he went on run after run, turning the Wisla defenders inside out. A cross five minutes before time which landed on the head of Barak Itzhaki but did not produce a goal underlined his abilities. Bruchian is unlikely to let the success go to his head. Although he oozes passion on the pitch, he is a mild mannered man once the game has finished and keeps himself to himself, rarely giving interviews. He did not talk to the press after Wednesday's heroics, preferring to allow his soccer to speak for itself. There is no way that the clock can be turned back and clubs to return to the days of locals filling their squads, and this is generally a good thing. The introduction of South American strikers into the Israeli league, for example, creates a buzz and excitement of its own. But the inclusion and success of home bred stars like Bruchian is vital to ensure that soccer remains the game of the people, a sport in which anyone can excel, wherever they come from. [email protected]