Sinai Says: Haifa's journeyman coach finally gets his just reward

It is hard to think of anyone who deserves Maccabi Haifa's success more than coach Elisha Levy.

Allon sinai 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Allon sinai 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
It is hard to think of anyone who deserves Maccabi Haifa's success more than coach Elisha Levy. Watching him beam while being congratulated following his team's progress to the Champions League group stage at National Stadium in Ramat Gan, one could not help but wonder how the 51-year-old must be feeling after being disregarded and disrespected for the first 19 years of his career. Humble and down to earth, Levy had to take a long and often arduous road to the top, making Tuesday's triumph all that more admirable. Levy always insisted that hard work is the only way to succeed and his career to date is a testament to that. After a 14-year playing career, which began and ended at Hapoel Beit She'an, Levy was appointed as the coach of the then third division club in 1989. Levy, who grow up in Beit She'an, had little success with the club in his first three seasons at the helm, but in the 1992/93 season he helped the team to promotion and the following year he guided it to an historic place in the top-flight. For the first time in his coaching career, Levy was being noticed for his achievements, but it would take him another 13 years to break the stigma of not being good enough to coach the country's biggest teams. Levy coached at Maccabi Herzliya, Tzafririm Holon, Ironi Rishon Lezion, Hapoel Kfar Saba and Ashdod SC, all well respected clubs, but teams that usually hope to avoid relegation rather than challenge for titles. The turning point of Levy's career came at Bnei Sakhnin. Levy promoted the side to the Premier League in the 2006/07 season and in the subsequent campaign guided it to a fourth place finish, the best in club history. Just as Levy's career began to peak, he got two lucky breaks, which paved his way to becoming the Haifa coach. After two mediocre seasons, Roni Levy's time at Kiryat Eliezer had clearly run out and the club's management went in search for a successor. Elisha received plenty of compliments for his work at Sakhnin, but it seemed that he would miss out yet again as Haifa boss Jacob Shahar had set his sights on bringing in Ran Ben-Shimon, who had just led newly promoted Ironi Kiryat Shmona to a third place finish and a UEFA Cup berth. However, fortune intervened in Levy's favor and after Ben-Shimon chose to join Maccabi Tel Aviv, the well-traveled Levy got the phone call he had been waiting for and was offered to coach Haifa. After such a long career, Levy had finally been given a chance and he repaid Shahar immediately, guiding Haifa to the Premier League title and a State Cup final. However, there were still those who preferred to credit Haifa's championship to the fact that the rest of the league was weak and questioned Levy's capability of coaching in Europe. Nevertheless, Levy continued to ignore all his doubters and has won them over in recent weeks, culminating in Tuesday's historic accomplishment. After so many years of being overlooked, Levy has finally got the recognition he so deserves. Nothing could erase the smile from Levy's face on Tuesday night and I for one couldn't help but smile with him.