Hap TA gets rid of Kashtan in shock move

IFA Chairman Luzon proclaims sport is clean; Mac Haifa, Sakhnin wage scoreless draw.

Bnei Yehuda Coach Dror Kashtan 311 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Bnei Yehuda Coach Dror Kashtan 311
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
It may not have come as a complete surprise, but no one really expected Hapoel Tel Aviv to actually fire Dror Kashtan on Monday midway through the Premier League season.
However, the ever-growing rift between the most decorated coach in Israeli soccer history and Hapoel owner Eli Tabib, combined with Tel Aviv’s recent poor performances, resulted in a transatlantic phone call between the two during which Kashtan’s fourth tenure with the Reds was terminated.
Just one month ago, Hapoel looked destined to cruise to the championship, leading the standings following convincing victories over both arch-rival Maccabi Tel Aviv and reigning-champion Maccabi Haifa.
However, Hapoel has won just one of its six matches since, dropping to third place, nine points behind leader Ironi Kiryat Shmona.
Tabib had never got along with Kashtan’s authoritarian demeanor and the recent disappointing results made the decision to sack the 67-year-old former Israel national team coach much easier.
Tabib called Kashtan from Miami on Sunday night to tell him that he is not enjoying the team’s play and is unhappy with his relationship with the coach.
Kashtan, who has six championships and six State Cups on his resume, told him that he believes he can still guide Hapoel to the league title, but Tabib replied that as far as he’s concerned Kashtan is fired.
The coach asked for the decision in writing and he received it at his home on Monday evening.
Hapoel initially announced that youth department manager Ze’ev Seltzer will take charge of the team on an interim basis, but in what is a testament to the disarray at the club, Seltzer heard of his appointment via the media and subsequently turned it down.
Fitness coach Ron Ziblin was put at the helm instead and will guide Hapoel in its Toto Cup semifinal against Maccabi Petah Tikva on Tuesday.
However, Ziblin’s time in the spotlight isn’t expect to last long, with Tabib indicating that he will name a new coach in the next few days, with Nitzan Shirazi and Moshe Sinai the early favorites.
Meanwhile, Israel Football Association chairman Avi Luzon claimed on Monday that Israeli soccer is free from match-fixing, a day after being questioned as part of a police investigation into corruption.
“At the end of this investigation, I can promise... that Israeli soccer is clean, as is the chairman of the IFA,” Luzon said in an interview on Army Radio.
“I can say with all certainty that no referee fixed any match.”
On Sunday, police said Luzon had been questioned for eight hours in connection with an investigation into alleged match-fixing and interfering in the placement of officials.
The interrogation came several months after police opened a broad match-fixing inquiry that has included the questioning of a number of club and match officials.
“There will be elections for the IFA chairmanship in 2014 so I may stay on until 2018 and, if people annoy me, I’ll continue until 2022,” he said.
“I am not at liberty to discuss the investigation, I wish I could,” Luzon added.
“But I am more than happy if the police want to publish all the details from beginning to end and not a snippet.”
In Premier League action on Monday, Maccabi Haifa was bitterly disappointing once more, only managing a 0-0 draw against Bnei Sakhnin at Kiryat Eliezer.
Reuters contributed to this report