Dora’s dumping highlights Israeli soccer's problem

Sinai Says: It seems that coaches in Israel’s top flight are a club’s most expendable asset.

SHLOMI DORA 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The sacking of Bnei Sakhnin coach Shlomi Dora on Sunday morning may well have escaped your attention, unless of course you are a fan of the club.
However, its significance goes far beyond whether Dora’s replacement, Marco Balbul, will be able to save the team from relegation or not.
Dora was the longest-tenured coach in the Premier League until his sacking on Sunday.
But what made Dora’s firing especially noteworthy was the fact that he had only held the position for 706 days, taking charge of the team on April 5, 2011.
It seems that coaches in Israel’s top flight are a club’s most expendable asset.
Across the sporting world, coaches are almost always the first to be blamed when something goes wrong, but the rate with which they are cast aside like yesterday’s dinner in Israel is truly astounding.
Yossi Mizrahi has now replaced Dora as the PL’s longest-tenured coach.
He has only guided Ashdod SC since April 11, 2011, a span of less than two years.
Besides Mizrahi, only Beitar Jerusalem coach Eli Cohen was at the helm of his current club at the end of last season.
Cohen replaced Yuval Naim at Beitar in February 2012.
Just half of the league’s 14 coaches began 2012/13 in charge of their teams. Seven clubs have already wielded the ax, with Hapoel Tel Aviv on its third coach of the campaign, replacing the sick Nitzan Shirazi with Yossi Abuksis before firing him last month to bring Freddy David aboard.
As the example of Hapoel Tel Aviv shows, it is not just the small struggling clubs who have a deficiency in patience.
Even Maccabi Haifa felt an irresistible urge to make a coaching change midseason, signing Arik Benado in place of Reuven Atar, who became the first Greens coach to be fired midseason since Eli Cohen was sacked in 2000.
In Benado’s case, the switch has proven to be a resounding success, with Haifa losing just a single match since he took charge in November, winning 12 of its past 15 encounters to emerge as Maccabi Tel Aviv’s only real rival for the league title.
But the same can hardly be said of most other instances.
Hapoel Ramat Gan was in the relegation zone, one place off the foot of the table, when David, who is now at Hapoel Tel Aviv, was sent packing to make room for Eli Cohen (not to be confused with his Beitar colleague of the same name).
Some 16 matches later, Ramat Gan remains in the relegation zone, one place off the foot of the table.
The absurdity of the endless coaching merry-go-round is clear for all to see in the case of David.
He was deemed not to be good enough for lowly Ramat Gan just 10 matches into the season, but is now the right man for one of the countries big clubs in Hapoel Tel Aviv.
Any attempt to try and guess which coaches will still hold their current positions at the start of next season seems destined to end in failure.
The likes of Benado, Ironi Kiryat Shmona’s Barak Bachar and Maccabi Tel Aviv’s Oscar Garcia have all done an excellent job and are either under contract or about to sign a new contract at their respected clubs.
However, with the average coaching shelf-life in the league lasting a measly eight months, there really is no knowing what could happen over just a few weeks.
Almost every coach in the league would find himself in a precarious position with a string of three or four defeats.
The importance of stability is completely lost on many owners and decision makers, but even those who acknowledge its significance often act in a totally opposite manner.
Dora became the seventh coach to be sacked this season, but even with just two months remaining to the campaign, he will almost surely not be the last.
The mistaken myth that the replacement of a coach results in an improvement in results, at least in the short term, continues to hold sway in the Israeli Premier League, despite being proven by recent history to be a risky endeavor Band-aid solution at best.
Until that changes, it will be very difficult for the much-maligned Israeli top-flight to spread its wings at all.