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The Trouble with Trebles-Maccabi Tel Aviv State Cup Champs!

If you’re familiar with Star Trek then you’ll certainly remember the fantastic episode, The Trouble with Tribbles where a furry little creature caused all kinds of trouble for Captain Kirk and his crew. These little furry fellows began to replicate as two became four and four became eight and so forth and so on until the whole starship Enterprise was loaded with these troublesome squeaky balls of fur. The way Maccabi Tel Aviv played last night was as if Beer Sheva saw thousands of these guys all over the pitch causing oodles and oodles of trouble.

Tel Aviv completed a historic treble by defeating Hapoel Beer Sheva 6-2 in an absolutely tremendous performance by Swedish sensation Rada Prica. Not only did Maccabi put a massive stamp on the Israeli league during the 2014-15 year but Rada Prica who had been injured for most of the campaign scored an unprecedented hat trick, dominating the matchup at Sammy Ofer Stadium in Haifa.

Prica was all over the pitch, scoring off balance, scoring with his head and scoring the opening goal of the game. An absolute performance for the ages for the classic #9 striker perhaps in his final days with Maccabi. Tel Aviv was running on all cylinders, flying up and down the pitch with long balls, intelligent passing and passion. 

They sliced and diced the Beer Sheva defense, the one that hadn’t been questioned prior to the match. The yellow and blue side on the other hand were without a number of their defenders including captain Sheran Yeini, Eitan Tibi, Dor Peretz and midfielder Nosa Igiebor. However it was the southern city’s defending and Maccabi’s offense that were highlighted in this match. Beer Sheva who couldn’t defend and Tel Aviv who couldn’t stop scoring causing all kinds of trouble for Beer Sheva coach Elisha Levy. 

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Beer Sheva owner Alona Barkat also caused all kinds of trouble by dismissing Levy just a mere week before the Israel State Cup final. Nigerian big man John Ogu said after the dismissal that it was crazy to make such a move right before arguably the biggest match in franchise history in who knows how long. Ogu confirmed later that indeed the coach being released didn’t help but Maccabi was head and shoulders above them from top to bottom. 

Another troubling point for Beer Sheva was playing in Haifa at Sammy Ofer Stadium being out scored 10-2 in the past 5 days! Did they also wilt under the pressure of a big crowd in a raucous facility? Could be no matter who the opponent would be.

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Trouble on the Maccabi side is the fact that coach Pako Ayestaran still doesn’t know where his future lies for next year after winning 3 titles this season. Not having some kind of continuity after three different coaches in three years could spell trouble going into UEFA Champions League qualifiers that are coming up in July. And not only that, should Maccabi want to replace Pako and not show the confidence they have in him is loads of trouble condsering he whitewashed the others teams in the league this year. How do you let go a coach that win a treble? 

But those in the biggest amount of trouble are the rest of the league who have a lot of work to do to try and keep up with the Joneses, the three-peat title holders.

There doesn’t seem to be any team in Israel that has the training, that has the fitness, that has the funds to compete with Maccabi game in and game out. Sure any team can win on any given day, but by the end of a season, the cream will always rise to the top. It’s clear that Maccabi’s foreign staff is far superior offering a different type of experience that no other club can offer. 

Right now the only other team that even has a clue as to what they have to do to keep pace is Hapoel Tel Aviv. The Reds certainly didn’t want to fall behind the top team in the big city and they are going to attempt to duplicate the success of their rivals. But teams like Beer Sheva who will most probably sign an Israeli coach perhaps Barak Bachar with whom Barkat had spoken to last week may be falling behind the curve and that’s not good for the future of the Ligat Ha’Al.

Any fan of Israeli football knows that a competitive balance across the league will provide for better entertainment, a superior product and also help the Israel National team and youth coming through the system to reach higher levels and keep up with the word’s footballing powers.

If I’m Alona Barkat, I would think long and hard before making a hire to replace Levy, especially after seeing the thumping that took place in what could have been the club’s first title in many, many years. If I’m the rest of the league I also take a good hard look at what went down on the pitch as well as off of it in Maccabi land and try to replicate the winning formula. Obviously there are clubs that don’t have the same funding that the champs have, but there are always ways to ensure a competitive balance, which will be crucial for the health of the league. This may be where the Minhelet HaLiga comes in to play.

The top class stadiums that are being built in Israel will automatically raise the level of the competition. Beer Sheva will be moving into a brand new one themselves next season and it would be a good idea that the team along with others in new abodes such as Netanya and Petach Tikva also attempt to improve the overall level of their product.

As Maccabi will now begin to prepare in earnest for a place in Europe there could be trouble if the coach and the squad don’t get their ducks in order as training camp opens in less than a month. Owner Mitch Goldhar made no qualms in his press conference prior to the Cup Final that this is the objective for the coming season. But first, even before that, many Maccabi players will be on National Team duty for a potentially decisive match in Bosnia in mid-June. Will the players be wiped out before next year even begins?

Last year there was trouble with Hamas and war so the home UEFA Champions & Europa league matches were moved to Cyprus and the results were less that sterling. That is definitely not something Goldhar and the rest of Maccabi want to repeat. After going through a whole season without European football this is something that the team MUST achieve. Should they not, a long year ahead will be in the cards not only for the supporters but also for the players and management as well.

Goldhar and Cryuff know that they must continue to build in order to secure a serious chance to go to Europe year in and year out. This is the ultimate goal for Maccabi along with building a new stadium that can provide proper amenities and also be a center for the team to continue to expand and grow. 
 
Expanding Maccabi’s worldwide brand and appeal is also in the cards as they have just signed an agreement with UNICEF to place their logo on their jerseys. It’s clear that Maccabi have a master plan for success and that they will keep building one day at a time.

Goldhar has patience and he is enjoying himself changing Israeli football little by little. This is a project of a lifetime, one that we are being privileged to watch unfold in the Holy Land.

Take note everyone Maccabi may be causing trouble for their rivals but they are also giving them an education and the blueprint for success. This is the trouble with trebles.

Pulpit notes:

Rada Prica completed a hat trick while Yoav Ziv scored his first goal in over a year, Mahran Radi also slotted home a goal and Eran Zahavi joined the party too. Oviedo Huban and Maor Bozaglo with a stunning strike gave Beer Sheva their two goals. This is the first time in 10 years that Maccabi won the Israel State Cup and the first Israeli club to complete a Treble which includes the Toto Cup, the League title and the State Cup.

Beer Sheva fans began exiting the stadium as the score kept running up in Maccabi’s favor leaving only a few hundred out of over 12k by game’s end. Elyaniv Barda the Beer Sheva captain said that this was his most disappointing loss and you could see it on his face at the press conference. Unfortunately this was seen as disrespect to the players who tried their best in less than ideal circumstances. 

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