Focused eyes on Israeli soccer or football as we like to call it here in Europe, Mideast or Asia saw contrasting differences last night between two Ligat Ha’Al clubs, Maccabi Tel Aviv & Beitar Jerusalem.
The evening kicked off with Maccabi Tel Aviv playing an Israel State Cup match against 3rd division side Hapoel Ashkelon at Bloomfield Stadium in Tel Aviv/Jaffa. The match allowed Maccabi coach Pako Ayestaran the chance to start a “B” team of players, including those coming off injuries, or having played little this season, plus some youngsters in an attempt to win and advance to the next round. Ayestaran readily admitted after the match that the league is more important than the Cup competition, and it gives him a chance to play those who have not had many opportunities. However, he stressed that all of the players on the Maccabi senior team are of top quality and caliber or else they wouldn’t be where they are today.
Pako has been one of the most friendly, open and honest coaches one has ever had to work with in the media. He is a straight shooter and a true “Mensch” in every sense of the word. He is also at a club that takes everything form A to Z as seriously as a Forbes 500 company. Anyone coming to a match would attest to that. Anyone visiting their website would say the same as well. Top notch professionalism every which way you can slice it. Fortunately for Maccabi, their “B” team ended up scrapping through on a Barak Itzhaki goal late in the game to do what was needed to be done, win and advance. Nothing more & nothing less and ending the evening on the right note.
One should note that this was not always the situation at Maccabi. It’s only been a few years since Jordi Cryuff joined the team as technical director and not many more since Mitch Goldhar bought the team and understood what needed to be done to restore law and order to the franchise and begin an ascent to the upper levels of the football universe.
On the other side of the football ledger, when we left Bloomfield last night at a few minutes prior to midnight, we had no clue what was about to hit the sports world. Settling into the car for an hour ride home to Jerusalem, it was reported that Beitar Jerusalem had let their coach Menachem Koretzky go. We jumped! After midnight? firing the coach now? What is going on as we all scrambled for more information. The club reported that there was a parting of the ways and differing opinions between Kortezky & owner Eli Tabib, but then at 2am another message came out saying that it wasn’t a done deal. Except that we have seen this for the last few weeks from Tabib & Koretzky. Constant bickering in the media and outside of it as well. Names of potential replacements began to circulate and finally at around 8am, veteran coach Guy Levy was hired to take the reigns of the club.
In Hebrew the term of what went on here would be Shechuna. An absolute three ring circus with all the trimmings. Not how a professional franchise would want to be run, but that’s what happens when the owner commutes between Israel & Florida, plus is also involved in the day to day operations of the club. Neighborhood would be the definition of Shechuna and that’s what Beitar has. But I’m sure, actually positive that Beitar can turn it around upstairs in management and downstairs on the pitch.
Once upon a time that’s what Maccabi Tel Aviv experienced. I’m sure they are happy that those days are long over.