Israeli Soccer: Matthaus to coach Maccabi Netanya

Despite the success of Reuven Atar Jammer agreed a two-year deal with the most capped player in the history of the German national team.

lothar matthaus 224 88 (photo credit: AP)
lothar matthaus 224 88
(photo credit: AP)
Lothar Matthaus, the most capped player in the history of the German national team, will be the coach of Maccabi Netanya next season. Despite the success current coach Reuven Atar has brought to the club Maccabi's German owner Daniel Jammer agreed a two-year deal with Matthaus on Friday evening in Berlin. Netanya still has a good chance of finishing in second place in the Israeli Premier league for a second successive year and qualifying for next season's UEFA Cup, after defeating Hapoel Tel Aviv 3-0 on Saturday. The timing of Friday's announcement was somewhat unexpected. Netanya is not only battling with Bnei Sakhnin and Ironi Kiryat Shmona for second place in the league, but will play Betar Jerusalem in the State Cup semifinals on Wednesday evening. Matthaus told the Maccabi Netanya official Web Site: "I am happy to come to a wonderful country like Israel." "This move is the biggest present I could give to the state of Israel," Jammer said on the Maccabi Netanya Web site. Maccabi board member Andreas Stamatiou said Saturday Matthaus will take over in mid-June. "I hope this will bring about a positive development in German-Israel relations," Stamatiou told AP. "And [I hope] that Matthaus can help the club take some steps forward in the next two years." Although he is one of the most successful players in Germany's history, Matthaus is yet to complete his coaching qualifications. He has had limited success in his coaching career, where he has coached four clubs as well as the Hungarian national team over the last six and a half years. His most recent coaching position was at Red Bull Salzburg, where he won the 2007 Austrian league title but was fired and replaced by the club's then-sporting director, the great Italian coach Giovanni Trapatoni. Matthaus will be the biggest name to coach an Israeli club. While he has an illustrious past, he will still have a tough time next season as most foreign coaches have been unable to find success in Israel. Most recently French legend Luis Fernandez took the reigns at Betar Jerusalem in January 2006, but was unable to last more than six months in the job before leaving Israel. He was replaced that summer by Argentinian World Cup winner Ossie Ardiles who had an even worse time, losing his job after just a few games in charge. Atar was clearly disappointed with the move but managed to inspire his team to an impressive win over a Hapoel Tel Aviv team which had been reveling in its 3-1 victory over Betar Jerusalem last Sunday. Itai Shechter scored the opener for Netanya in the 30th minute with a screamer from 25 meters out. The visiting Tel Aviv team couldn't get back into the game despite putting Netanya under pressure and the hosts grabbed two goals in the last 10 minutes with Shechter scoring from close range in the 84th and Dele Yampoloski sealing the win in injury time. After the match Atar refused to comment on next season, saying he is only focused on Wednesday's cup semifinal and hopes many Netanya fans will be at National Stadium in Ramat Gan to support the team. Elsewhere in the Israeli Premier League, the teams fighting for the second and third place UEFA Cup spots both won. Bnei Sakhnin followed last week's 4-0 demolition of Maccabi Petah Tikva with a 2-0 defeat of hapless Hapoel Kfar Saba with Ilya Yavorian and Maor Buzaglo scoring for the Arab team. Kiryat Shmona kept the pressure up on Netanya and Sakhnin with a 3-1 win over Maccabi Tel Aviv. Kiryat Shmona coach Ran Ben-Shimon had a point to prove after it was confirmed last week he would be taking over as Maccabi Tel Aviv coach next season. And when Rudy Hadad scored an easy first for the visiting Tel Aviv side after six minutes it seemed that maybe his team was not interested in second place. But the hosts were not going to give up so easily and came back in the second half. Nigerian Yero Bello rounded Maccabi 'keeper Dragoslav Jezric for his team's first in the 59th minute, Guy Tzarfati scored a penalty in the 70th and Bello wrapped up the win four minutes from time. Meanwhile at the bottom of the table, Bnei Yehuda continued its revival, winning its fourth straight game on Saturday with a comfortable 2-0 win over relegation rival Ashdod SC. Tamir Kahlon and Moshe Biton scored for the Oranges at home. Although the result still leaves Bnei Yehuda bottom of the league, it is now only one point away from Ashdod in 11th and two from Maccabi Herzliya, which plays league leader Betar Jerusalem at Teddy Stadium on Sunday. Maccabi Haifa's season was all but ended on Saturday after the team from the north could only manage a 0-0 draw at home to Maccabi Petah Tikva. The result stopped the rot for Petah Tikva, which had lost its last five league games. The match also marked the debut of new Petah Tikva coach Nitzan Shirazi and assistant coach Tal Banin.