By JEREMY LAST
Despite having turned the fortunes of Maccabi Haifa around in only a year or so, Elisha Levy has still managed, in the main, to avoid the spotlight.
It is that combination of professional success and genuine self effacement that made Levy our choice for Coach of the Year.
Levy won the league title with Haifa in May after only a year in charge and then led his team into the Champions League for the second time in its history.
Haifa may have had claimed the unfortunate accolade of becoming the first team to finish the Champions League group stage with no points or goals, but it did so with a fighting spirit which saw the Greens hold their own against the likes of Juventus and Bayern Munich.
It must be noted that, aside from the opener against Munich, it lost every game 1-0.
There had been more than a few eyebrows raised when the 52-year-old Levy was given the Haifa job after Roni Levy left the club - he was far from the big name coach many fans had been hoping for.
But 19 years of coaching experience, culminating in a superb two seasons at the helm of Bnei Sakhnin, proved to be just the right background Haifa chairman Jacob Shahar was looking for.
Maccabi was down in the dumps, having fallen by the wayside in R. Levy's last two seasons, and his replacement introduced a new spirit in the club.
Eyal Golasa's goal which clinched a 1-0 victory over city-rival Hapoel Haifa on Monday summed up all that is good about the revamped Maccabi.
The new coach has quickly introduced a core of young, talented players who catapulted last season's champion to a stunning first round of games where Haifa won 14 and lost only one without drawing any.
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