Malmilian out, Roni Levy in at Betar

With dismal results as coach, Jerusalem icon steps down in middle of campaign.

Roni Levy 311 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Roni Levy 311
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
After just six months in charge, Uri Malmilian left Betar Jerusalem on Monday morning.
Sixteen seasons as a player at the club made Malmilian Betar’s greatest icon and he finally got his chance to guide the team this past summer after 15 years of coaching.
However, despite having a relatively promising squad of players, Malmilian could not get his team to play anywhere near to its potential, and after winning just five times in 18 matches, he brought his disappointing tenure to an end on Monday.
Hours later, Roni Levy was already installed as his replacement.
Malmilian had offered his resignation earlier in the season, only to be turned down by chairman Itzik Kornfein.
But after the two met once more on Monday, Betar announced that it had parted ways with Malmilian by mutual consent, although it is believed the coach is the one who decided it was time to go after being told he would not be able to sign new players.
Betar wasted little time in finding a replacement, signing Levy to a contract through the 2011/12 season.
“I’m delighted to sign with Betar,” said Levy, who guided Maccabi Haifa to three straight Premier League championships between 2004 and 2006.
“When I look at Israeli soccer it is clear to me that Betar is one of the country’s big clubs. I came close to coaching Betar on several occasions in the past and now things have finally fallen into place.”
Levy left Haifa after the 2007/08 season and has experienced little success since, coaching Maccabi Petah Tikva for just 11 months before spending six months at Romanian club Unirea Urziceni, leaving the team this past summer.
Levy, who lost out to Moti Ivanir in the race to be named the new Maccabi Tel Aviv coach last week, refused to set tangible goals for the remainder of the season.
“At the moment, we want to get to a situation that we can promote young players and build a winning team that will aspire to finish as high as possible in the standings,” said Levy, who appointed David Amsalem as his assistant.
“I will take time to learn about the team’s problems and then I will be able to set more goals.
“I see this as a great challenge. There is a lot of potential in the team. I believe that with hard work and perhaps some new players we can do some nice things. I’m optimistic. The side isn’t in the best situation, but with methodical work we can change matters and I believe in my ability.”
With just 19 points from 18 games, Betar is only eight points above the relegation zone and has lost two straight matches, falling 2-0 to Maccabi Petah Tikva at Teddy Stadium on Saturday.
Nevertheless, Kornfein is confident Levy can lead Betar to immediate success.
“I’m an optimistic man and I’m certain Levy can help Jerusalem out of this poor period,” he said. “The goal is to settle the team and pull away from the danger zone.”
Kornfein thanked Malmilian for his work, but claimed that there was no other option but to replace the coach.
“We came to the conclusion that we had to make a change,” Kornfein said.
“Sometimes you need to take painful steps in soccer. No one enjoys taking these kinds of decisions. The reality of our situation forced this upon us.
“At the end of the day it all comes down to results, and they weren’t good. Anyone who cares about Betar wasn’t pleased with the results.
“Roni Levy is one of the most decorated coaches in Israeli soccer. I wanted him in the past and I hope he leads Betar to where it should be.”