Sinai Says: Why Sakhnin deserves to stay up

The team's decision to hand Eran Kulik the coaching reins has now got me pulling for his its survival.

Allon sinai 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Allon sinai 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
I don't know about you, but of the three teams now fighting against relegation from the Premier League, I'm going to be rooting for Bnei Sakhnin. It's not that I've suddenly grown fond of the team's style of play and it doesn't even have anything to do with the fact that I feel Israeli sports as a whole is better off with an Israeli-Arab club in soccer's top division. Up until last Sunday, I really couldn't care less which of the three bottom clubs - Sakhnin, Ironi Kiryat Shmona and Hakoach Amidar Ramat Gan - would end the season in last position and find itself in the National League. However, Sakhnin's decision to hand Eran Kulik the coaching reins last week after the sacking of Eyal Lachman, has now got me pulling for his team's survival. Despite beginning his coaching career some 30 years ago, the 63-year-old is only now finally getting his first real chance at a top level Israeli club. Kulik wandered the wastelands of Israeli soccer's lower divisions for decades, guiding such teams as Kiryat Gat and Kiryat Ono, and spent many years coaching youth sides, including heading the youth programs at Maccabi Haifa and Hapoel Tel Aviv. But for all of his success, Kulik never got his chance in the top-flight. Maybe it was his quiet demeanor or possibly the obsession of clubs to go for young up-and-coming coaches, but regardless, Kulik was never treated as a top talent. However, all this could change in the next couple of months should he succeed in Sakhnin. Kulik, who ended his playing career as Maccabi Herzilya's all-time leading scorer with 95 goals, learned the coaching trade at the renowned German coaching university in Cologne. Upon returning from Germany in 1978 Kulik was hired by then second division club Maccabi Haifa, but left after a single season, failing to guide the team to promotion. Ever since, he has been waiting for another real opportunity to make his name in the Premier League, not knowing it would take 30 years to arrive. Kulik was the coach of National League club Bnei Lod until just three weeks ago when he decided to resign after the struggling side lost yet again. His prospects may have looked pretty bleak at the time, but Kulik remained positive and comforted himself with the fact that he's not financially dependent on his coaching career, as he's been a physical education teacher at Alians High School in Tel Aviv since 1971. Kulik, who intends to keep his teaching job regardless of his coaching career, has been promised to continue at Sakhnin if he leads the team to safety, but he knows how much promises are worth in Israeli soccer and is only concerned with succeeding in the short term. "I didn't come to Sakhnin to fail," Kulik said after his first training session at the club. "I believe Sakhnin deserves to remain in the Premier League." Only time will tell if Sakhnin lives up to its word to extend Kulik's contract should he do well. I for one will be hoping the veteran journeyman proves once and for all that nice guys don't necessarily finish last and that in Israeli soccer coaching credentials are still at least as important as schmoozing skills.