On Yaniv Katan night at Sammy Ofer Stadium in Haifa, Maccabi Haifa turned back the clock as Yossi Benayoun pulled one out of his magical hat. Benayoun the current Greens captain who replaced Katan helped his side earn the 3-points and a chance to stay in the race for a European playoff berth slamming home a goal off a brilliant Eliran Atar play against an overwhelmed Beitar Jerusalem.
But this night was all about the former captain a Yaniv Katan. Finally getting his due by Haifa & owner Yakov Shachar at a Stadium that his success helped build by his hard work throughout the last 15 some odd years and 7 league championships at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium, Katan was feted as a true hero by all in attendance.
The North Stand was rocking and begging for Katan to come over and salute the crowd who witnessed his 165 goals over all competitions, his 78 league goals and his unforgettable strike at Old Trafford Stadium in Manchester in September of 2002. Katan scored the first ever Champions League goal for any Israeli club in the tournament and it took place against one of the greatest sides of our generation, Manchester United just 8 minutes into the match. He would later captain his side to the Champions League once again in 2009 where he would score 7 goals and assist on 7 others during the qualification portion to propel the Greens into prestigious European company playing against the likes of Bayern Munich & Juventus.
Katan always knew how to surface for the big moment. He had the knack to score a goal or play a crucial role in helping The Greens to yet another momentous occasion. Just like on May 18, 2009 when his goal won the Israel Ligat Ha’Al Championship against Hapoel Tel Aviv. Katan was all over the pitch that night leading his side to victory. He was so good that the journalists rewarded his selfless play a 10/10 individual score, a rarity for any player in any league to get. A perfect score for the perfect captain.
Yaniv Katan began his career with a Maccabi Haifa playing in his first game September 12, 1998 coming on in the 63rd minute for Haim Silvas against none other than Beitar Jerusalem. It didn’t take long for the 17 year old to make an impact on the international stage with Haifa as he assited on the first of Alon Mizrachi’s historic goals against Paris St. Germain at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium. His first goal would come later that month in October and the rest as they say is history.
Maccabi Haifa was the only Israeli team that Katan, the Kiryat Ata native would play for and began in their youth system as an 9-year old. He quickly moved up through the ranks, impressing his coaches and scouts with his goal scoring abilities as well as his leadership qualities. As the years went by international scouts also set their eyes upon Katan with Belgium outfit Anderlecht attempting to sign him before his breaking out with Haifa but his family felt that as a youngster he should begin to ply his trade at home and develop within the system and the league he began with.
Katan would get another shot of playing abroad when West Ham United of the English Premier League signed him in December 2005. At West Ham, he would play alongside Yossi Benayoun who starred for various clubs in England including Liverpool, Chelsea & Arsenal. However, game minutes were at a premium and Katan wasn’t able to crack the West Ham lineup on a regular basis and it was back to Haifa in the summer of 2006 where he played until the end of 2014.
On his return to Haifa, Katan became the undisputed leader of the club playing an integral role in all facets of the team until his retirement. Playing in over 600 matches is no small task for any player and Katan did it with class each and every time he laced on his cleats.
Playing in 31 games for the Israel National Team, Katan scored 5 goals for his country wearing the blue and white proudly just as he always did while wearing the Green of Maccabi Haifa. In all of his years as a professional, Katan was never shown a red card or ejected from a match, an extraordinary feat by a true gentleman.
Yaniv Katan will go down as one of the best to ever on and off the pitch in the Holy Land. It’s not everyday that we are treated to such an incredible talent and Mentsch.