The Last Word: It's the unpredictability that keeps us coming back for more

Rather than seeing this as a point of concern, we should celebrate the variety of the sports world.

jeremy last 88 (photo credit: )
jeremy last 88
(photo credit: )
When we at The Jerusalem Post sports department came together this week to draw up the shortlist for this year's Israeli Sports Personality of the Year, one name became a particular issue of contention. He may not be one of the leading lights of European soccer, but Yossi Benayoun still has his moments while playing for Liverpool, as we saw last weekend when he scored a stunning goal in his side's 3-1 victory over Blackburn in the English Premier League. The way that Benayoun skillfully tricked the Blackburn defense and fired the ball into the back of the net summed up all that is great about the Israel national team captain. His moments of brilliance have delighted fans around the world, specifically in Haifa, Santander, West Ham and now Liverpool. However, while he is clearly one of the most talented and successful Israeli soccer players in the 60-year history of the state, he has failed to make a significant enough impact at Anfield. Benayoun lacks the crucial element of consistency which would have given him a place among the top six Israeli sportsmen vying for the Post's prestigious award. Unfortunately, the 28-year-old can not be relied upon to turn on the style with regularity. All too often supporters have bought tickets to watch the national team play only to be disappointed by Benayoun's weak contribution. After coming in second in the 2007 poll, the boy from Beersheba lost his place to the more consistent Elyaniv Barda, but he will always be considered a superstar of Israeli sports for as long as he continues playing. In recent weeks, there has been strong speculation about Benayoun's future, with some media outlets linking him with a move to Spartak Moscow. At the time of writing, however, it looks far likelier he will stay put in the north west of England, especially after Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez threw his support behind the Israeli. "We have quality players now who can change games and Yossi is one of those," Beitez has said. "He can be impressive and he can be a match winner for us." Benayoun is not the only name from last year's shortlist for the Israeli Sports Personality of the Year absent this time around. In fact, only Avraham Grant and Andy Ram managed to make it for a second successive year, with former leading lights including Shahar Pe'er, Dudi Sela and Meir Tapiro falling off the radar. Rather than seeing this as a point of concern, we should celebrate the variety and unpredictability of the sports world. This time last year, few could have predicted that former Hapoel Holon coach Miki Dorsman, or even surfer Shahar Zubari, would feature so prominently among the nominations. But they are there on the list due to their impressive achievements, and it is precisely the way that sports continues to keep us guessing that encourages fans to come back for more. Back in January, I thought this could be the year Israel makes its biggest impact yet at the Olympics and personalities like pole vaulter Alex Averbukh and judoka Arik Ze'evi would dominate a nominations list which would definitely include tennis star Pe'er. The past year has proved me wrong, thrown up an exciting shortlist and left me wondering what the next 12 months have in store for us. For the moment, though, it is time to congratulate the six that made it on to the list - Zubari, Dorsman, Barda, Ram, Grant and Paralympic swimmer Inbal Pezaro - a group of stars who made 2008 another sporting year to remember. Now it is up to you to decide who is crowned the Israeli Sports Personality of the Year. You have a unique opportunity to make your voice heard, so head on to the sports section of or send an email to with your choice.