Loquacious Landau looking to silence doubters

Sinai Says: Landau's grandma used to tell him “even if you may never reach the moon, you should never stop dreaming about it”.

Gili Landau 311 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Gili Landau 311
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
You will not find a more eloquent or elegant speaker in Israeli soccer than Gili Landau.
But in the world of sports, there are few things that are worse than sounding too intelligent, especially if you flaunt it at every chance.
Landau has spent much of his stop-start coaching career languishing in the National League (second division) and until recently it seemed like that would never change.
But an unexpected turn of events has put Landau on the verge of an historic accomplishment as Ironi Kiryat Shmona coach, giving him an opportunity to forever change the way he will be remembered as a coach.
I write coach, because his legendary status as a player was cemented long ago.
The 54-year-old Landau spent his entire playing career at Hapoel Tel Aviv (1974-1990) and will forever be revered by the Red fans for scoring two memorable, yet disputed, winners for the club, the first in the State Cup final in 1983, with the second handing Hapoel the league championship in the 1985/86 season.
However, his coaching career never took off and he spent no more than two consecutive seasons at his previous eight clubs.
Landau had an opportunity to prove he belongs with Israel’s top coaches eight years ago, but he lasted just five league matches at Hapoel Tel Aviv in 2004/05 and soon returned to the National League.
He suffered relegation to the second division with Hapoel Petah Tikva last season (not for the first time in his career), but Kiryat Shmona owner Izzy Sheratzky saw something in the coach that convinced him to place Landau at the helm of the surprise champion.
While Petah Tikva ended 2011/12 in last place, Landau was bestowed plenty of praise for his work with the bankrupt team, which showed admirable fighting spirit despite beginning the season with a nine-point deduction due to its financial problems.
However, Sheratzky’s decision to bring in Landau in place of Ran Ben-Shimon, the architect of Kiryat Shmona’s success, was still largely met with raised eyebrows.
After all, his resume lacked any notable achievements and he had very little to offer in European experience, an important factor considering Kiryat Shmona’s hopes of reaching the Champions League group stage this season.
There were those who suggested that Landau was given the job because he was an ideal “yes man” for Sheratzky, who believes he was never given due credit for Kiryat Shmona’s stunning success last season.
There was also a claim that it was Landau’s social skills which got him the job, with the media supposedly pushing his candidacy.
Landau is in fact a media favorite, but only because he refuses to use worn-out clichés and provides entertaining sound bites which delight journalists.
Take this past Monday for example.
While Landau spoke of the strengths of BATE Borisov, his team’s opponent in the Champions League playoffs on Wednesday night, and elaborated on what his side must do to advance, he also provided a charming parable.
Landau told of how his grandma used to tell him that “even if you may never reach the moon, you should never stop dreaming about it”.
Landau was of course trying to explain that Kiryat Shmona should never give up on the dream of reaching the Champions League even if the odds aren’t in its favor, but he did so in a way no other coach in Israeli sports would have.
His articulacy may result in many of his colleagues treating him as a laughing stock, but regardless of the real reason behind his appointment at Kiryat Shmona, Landau now has the chance to prove that he belongs with the very best in his business.
A positive result on the road against Borisov tonight and progress to the group stage in the return leg in Israel next week will not only make Kiryat Shmona one of the smallest clubs ever to play in European soccer’s showcase competition, but will also silence his critics once and for all, and perhaps even leave the loquacious Landau speechless.