Sinai Says: What are you waiting for, Kashtan?

The humiliating 1-0 defeat to Latvia at National Stadium in Ramat Gan on Saturday night proved that the team has been pulled to absolute ruin and disgrace.

allon sinai Olympics 88 (photo credit: )
allon sinai Olympics 88
(photo credit: )
The fact that Dror Kashtan has not quit his job after his utter and complete failure as Israel coach illustrates just how detached he has become. The national soccer team stooped to a new low in every way possible under Kashtan, who was once known as the country's most decorated coach, but will now be remembered as the man who alienated an entire nation from its beloved squad. The humiliating 1-0 defeat to Latvia at National Stadium in Ramat Gan on Saturday night not only ended any lingering hope the side had of reaching a first World Cup in 40 years, but also proved beyond a doubt that Kashtan has piloted the team to absolute ruin and disgrace, both in the professional, soccer sense as well as in the far more unforgivable eyes of the once-adoring fans and media. The national team has tasted failure many times in the past and will continue to do so in the future, so in that regard this most recent botched qualifying campaign is nothing exceptionally unique and just another chapter in a long tale of futility. To be fair, Israeli soccer's on-field problems go far beyond Kashtan's team selection or motivational skills. Poor infrastructure and youth development mean future Israel coaches will continue to depend on the occasional special talent in the hope of achieving unlikely success. However, Kashtan inherited a bad situation and made it much worse, which puts him squarely on the hotseat in the aftermath of the latest debacle. Instead of getting the most out of Israel's best, creating a team which plays better than the sum of its parts, the 65-year-old's side never even came close to playing to its (albeit mediocre) potential. The deteriorating state of Israeli soccer may give Kashtan an excuse for the professional side of the fiasco, but he definitely should not be let off the hook so easily for turning the squad into a public laughing stock. The days in which the whole country prayed for an Israel win as a unified frenzied mob like in many other soccer-crazed nations have long disappeared, possibly never to return, and Kashtan shoulders much of the responsibility for that. He guided the national team as if it were a private club, failing to understand that he must change his old-fashioned and brusque approach with the fans and media, especially with his hefty salary coming directly out of the taxpayers' pocket. Kashtan distanced the side from the supporters, and the fact that many devotees were shockingly going so far as to hope the team would lose to Latvia is a direct result of that. The coach had the nerve to criticize the fans for not buying tickets for the Latvia match, conveniently forgetting that he is the one who made the public feel unwanted. During Kashtan's three years at the helm, there were more empty seats in Israel's matches at Ramat Gan than ever before and that is no coincidence. The blame for the unprecedented drop in fan interest for the national program deservingly falls squarely on Kashtan's lap and he is only making matters worse by refusing to do the right thing and resign. With the limited resources Israeli soccer has to offer, it's possible that even the world's greatest coach would fail to guide the team to a major tournament. However, the likes of Shlomo Sherf and Avraham Grant showed in the past decade that it is more than possible to at least come close to reaching the European Championships or World Cup. Kashtan came nowhere near even accomplishing that, despite Israel receiving a dream qualifying group. Far more importantly, however, Kashtan estranged the national team from the public it is supposed to represent, and for that alone, he must go.