The Last Word: Can the Eli Ohana revolution last?

The former Betar Jerusalem legend has managed to instill steel and resolve into his Kfar Saba team.

jeremy last 88 (photo credit: )
jeremy last 88
(photo credit: )
As one great English television pundit once said - It's a funny old game. Each August/September the soccer seasons kick off all over the world, with fans of every team full of excitement and expectation. And more often than not, one club emerges as a surprise early leader. Suffice to say that over the season the league table usually sorts itself out over the first few months, but as they say, the table never lies. In Israel there is definitely some excitement amongst the supporters of one team in green - but this time it isn't the perennial champion from Haifa. It would be an understatement to say that Hapoel Kfar Saba was a soccer team in trouble when former Betar Jerusalem legend Eli Ohana took over in the middle of last season. The club was in disarray, rooted at the bottom of the Israeli Premier League. Few saw Ohana as the savior. The man with the once-classic mullet had been a legend as a player but generally a failure as a coach. His two stints at Bnei Yehuda had been impressive only because he managed to get the oranges promoted to the top division. His leadership at Betar had often been so bad that even the most ardent supporters began to turn their back on him and most breathed a sigh of relief when he resigned after the first game of last season. The general feeling amongst most Israeli soccer fans was that Ohana did not know the first thing about tactics and couldn't manage a soccer team to save his life. Well, how wrong have these fans (this columnist included) been proved. Ohana somehow managed to immediately instill a steel and resolve into the once-weak Kfar Saba team. And with few signings, inspired them to a string of victories over teams including Haifa and Betar. By the end of the season, Kfar Saba was safe. And amazingly enough Ohana has managed to carry through the optimism and winning feeling into the new season. Talk about so far so good for Kfar Saba - the tiny team from middle Israel is currently sitting pretty at the top of the Premier League table. Having walloped Hapoel Petah Tikva 4-1 in Matchday 1, Ohana proved he is no flash in the pan on Saturday, embarrassing an already tired-looking Maccabi Tel Aviv 2-0 at Bloomfield Stadium. Whether Kfar Saba can carry this on is anyone's guess. It's one thing to get a few good results but another to carry it on through 33 matches. At the end of the season, it is the quality that wins the league. The thing is that the standard of soccer in Israel can often be very low, giving those teams with a tight defense and a strong attitude the chance to do well. Over in England the big surprise is in the blue half of Liverpool. Few expected Everton to start so well, but David Moyes got his signings right this summer and his team clearly bore fruit with a 3-0 win over the reds on Saturday. Crystal Palace fans will all be missing the majesty of Andrew Johnson, but still proud to see the man who scored so many crucial goals at Selhurst grab two at Goodison Park. One team that must be questioning itself is London side Arsenal. Four games in and still no win. With the Champions League beginning this week, it's difficult to expect much from last season's European runners-up. And it's a little sad, to see the team struggling so much. It's time for Wenger's boys to stop playing pretty soccer and start scoring some goals.