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 (photo credit: sinai)
allon sinai
(photo credit: sinai)

The fact that Dror Kashtan has not quit his jobafter his utter and complete failure as Israel coach illustrates justhow detached he has become.

Thenational soccer team stooped to a new low in every way possible underKashtan, who was once known as the country's most decorated coach, butwill now be remembered as the man who alienated an entire nation fromits beloved squad.

The humiliating 1-0 defeat to Latvia at National Stadium inRamat Gan on Saturday night not only ended any lingering hope the sidehad of reaching a first World Cup in 40 years, but also proved beyond adoubt that Kashtan has piloted the team to absolute ruin and disgrace,both in the professional, soccer sense as well as in the far moreunforgivable eyes of the once-adoring fans and media.

The national team has tasted failure many times in the past andwill continue to do so in the future, so in that regard this mostrecent botched qualifying campaign is nothing exceptionally unique andjust another chapter in a long tale of futility.

To be fair, Israeli soccer's on-field problems gofar beyond Kashtan's team selection or motivational skills. Poorinfrastructure and youth development mean future Israel coaches willcontinue to depend on the occasional special talent in the hope ofachieving unlikely success.

However, Kashtan inherited a bad situation and made it muchworse, which puts him squarely on the hotseat in the aftermath of thelatest debacle.

Insteadof getting the most out of Israel's best, creating a team which playsbetter than the sum of its parts, the 65-year-old's side never evencame close to playing to its (albeit mediocre) potential.

The deteriorating state of Israeli soccer may give Kashtan anexcuse for the professional side of the fiasco, but he definitelyshould not be let off the hook so easily for turning the squad into apublic laughing stock.

The days in which the whole country prayed for an Israel win asa unified frenzied mob like in many other soccer-crazed nations havelong disappeared, possibly never to return, and Kashtan shoulders muchof 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 brusqueapproach with the fans and media, especially with his hefty salarycoming directly out of the taxpayers' pocket. Kashtan distanced theside from the supporters, and the fact that many devotees wereshockingly going so far as to hope the team would lose to Latvia is adirect result of that. The coach had the nerve to criticize the fansfor not buying tickets for the Latvia match, conveniently forgettingthat he is the one who made the public feel unwanted.

During Kashtan's three years at the helm, there were more emptyseats in Israel's matches at Ramat Gan than ever before and that is nocoincidence.

The blame for the unprecedented drop in fan interest for thenational program deservingly falls squarely on Kashtan's lap and he isonly making matters worse by refusing to do the right thing and resign.

With the limited resources Israeli soccer has to offer, it'spossible that even the world's greatest coach would fail to guide theteam to a major tournament.

However, the likes of Shlomo Sherf and Avraham Grant showed inthe past decade that it is more than possible to at least come close toreaching the European Championships or World Cup.

Kashtan came nowhere near even accomplishing that, despiteIsrael receiving a dream qualifying group. Far more importantly,however, Kashtan estranged the national team from the public it issupposed to represent, and for that alone, he must go.