Kashtan: I am not afraid of challenges

Israel's national soccer team entered a new era Monday morning when Dror Kashtan held his first press conference.

Israel's national soccer team entered a new era Monday morning when Dror Kashtan held his first press conference as head coach at Israel Football Association headquarters in Ramat Gan. Kashtan, 61, will officially begin his tenure at the start of July after his contract at Hapoel Tel Aviv expires. The veteran coach was already setting goals ahead of the 2008 European Championship qualifiers. "I am not afraid of challenges," Kashtan said, six days after his appointment was confirmed. "I am filled with adrenaline and willpower to face this challenge and the level of expectations to guide Israel to its first major achievement in 36 years." Kashtan said being the national team coach was a dream come true and he was clearly emotional while reading his opening statement. "I'm very excited at being the national coach. I've achieved every single objective I set myself in my coaching career. There's only one senior position I haven't held and I'm very proud to be coaching the national side." Kashtan also addressed what he passed on in order to become Israel's coach. "I had two very attractive offers from Betar Jerusalem and Hapoel Tel Aviv, who offered me a large salary," he revealed. "I decided to turn down these offers because coaching the national team is a huge challenge and I feel obligated to represent my country." IFA chairman Itche Menahem sat beside Kashtan at the press conference. "We will make every effort to give the national team the best possible conditions," Menahem promised. "We will make sure the National Stadium in Ramat Gan will be full for all of our matches." Menahem's deputy and successor, Avi Luzon, said, "Kashtan is the senior Israeli coach and deserves to coach the team. We've been dreaming of reaching a big tournament for many years and I believe we can beat any team on a given day and qualify for the European championships." "I'm an advocate of attacking soccer," added Kashtan. "Even when I met top European teams I always played without fear." Of the high expectations from him as Israel's coach he said, "People always expect a great deal from me and they constantly demand results. I'm challenged by the expectations." Kashtan did not mention Avraham Grant, his predecessor and arch-rival, during the press conference, but was asked if he would consult with Grant. "[Richard] Nielsen [Grant's predecessor] never met with Grant when he was appointed as coach and I have no intention to meet with Grant. I don't know a place where two heads can work simultaneously." Kashtan will decide on a work plan after the order for Group E matches are determined. Representatives of all the teams will meet in Croatia on February 23 to make up the schedule. The first match of the campaign will take place in September. Betar brings Albermanback to Israel Gal Alberman arrived in Israel Monday evening after signing a four-and-a-half year contract with Betar Jerusalem. Spanish club Tenerife received €500,000 from Betar for the midfielder's services less than half a year after acquiring him from Maccabi Petah Tikva. "I haven't failed," Alberman said. "I'm returning from Spain after less then six months because Betar was very keen for me to join the team. It gives me lots of motivation to return." Alberman is set to earn approximately $240,000 a year and should make his debut on Sunday against Ashdod SC.