Michael Greenberg grew up in the suburbs of Los Angeles in what would be described as the American Dream. His father Avery had moved for the sun of California from the cold and dreary winters of Montreal back in the early 1970’s. Along with his wife Sharon, Michael and his two brothers experienced a childhood rich in Jewish education and culture.
Avery, an ardent Zionist and accountant by trade always looked at Aliyah as the realization of a life long dream. From being President of Valley Beth Shalom synagogue to ensuring his children received the best schooling at the Milken Community institution, he moved up the scheduled Aliyah to Israel by a couple of years. Michael found his way to the Holy Land while still in high school and finished his studies in 2006 at The American School in Even Yehuda.
“I was very uncomfortable coming to Israel especially before I had even finished my secondary degree”, Greenberg protested. “Sports for me were a huge highlight while growing up in Los Angeles as I played not only soccer but also other sports including ice hockey, flag football and I was named athlete of the year in middle school. A move to Israel was the last thing I wanted to do as a teenager.”
However, after being in Israel for only a month, a family friend connected Greenberg to the then Israel Football Association Chairman Avi Luzon and his family’s club Maccabi Petach Tikva where he was offered a spot in the team’s youth program. Playing as forward striker and winger, he began to hone his skills under the watchful eye of Ofer Fabian who is now an assistant coach for the Israel Under-21 program. “Fabian was an excellent coach and has now become a good friend of the family. He was extremely supportive and helped me out a lot as I began my journey to become a professional soccer player.”
For the next 3 years, Greenberg plied his trade with the likes of Israeli star players Omer Damari, Tal Ben Chaim and Dovev Gabbay. He moved up the ladder at such a fast rate a trip to Germany was in the cards to train with the senior team prior to the 2009-10 season. While in Germany, Greenberg had the opportunity to see how he stacked up against the top players and did not disappoint as he was named captain of the youth team and also started to practice with the senior side on a regular basis.
“After my time in the Petach Tikva youth program I needed to spread my wings and play every game. This was an opportunity that may have not been afforded to me with the club’s top side and I move onto the Ligat Leumit, Israel’s second division.”
But that was when the realities of living in Israel and the Middle East began to creep up on Greenberg as he was drafted into the Israel Defense Forces, the IDF for basic training and would miss a full season. Soccer would have to wait.
In 2011 while still serving the country, Greenberg began to play for Amishav Petach Tikva a Ligat Alef or 3rd division team but moved again once he finished his army service to Kfar Yonah where he scored 4 goals while being hampered by a hamstring injury.
“The following season I continued with Kfar Yonah as the number one striker and scored 7 goals but my year ended in April 2013 when I had to undergo a hernia operation. It seemed that I was beginning to be plagued by injuries.”
And plagued he was. While Greenberg currently features as the top striker for Kfar Shalem his start with the club in the fall of 2013 was no short of disastrous.
“I received a terrific opportunity to lead the team and I was not only playing consistently but I was scoring as well until I tore my right ACL. That put me on the shelf for about a year.”
As soon as Greenberg came back, he returned to the starting lineup and again began scoring goals once again. With his side fighting for a trip to the promotion playoffs there is a chance that Kfar Shalem may move up a league to the Liga Leumit. Under contract until 2016, he knows that progression in Israel is definitely a possibility, however Greenberg is looking to take his skills learned on an international level back to the United States and the MLS, Major League Soccer.
“I dream of playing at the highest level, which for me would be Arsenal in England, but realistically I have tons to offer going to the United States. I’ve played with players from all around the world in Israel, matured after being in the armed forces and been through the trenches both on and off the field of play. Not only that but I came back from injuries a number of times to still be the first choice striker and the best attacker on my team.
With my athletic ability and knowledge of the game, it would be an ideal opportunity to not only give back to the country of my birth but also represent the country where I developed into who I am today.”
The tests that Greenberg faced since making Aliyah were the stepping stones to who he is here and now. Moving to Israel is a challenge whether one is an athlete, doctor, accountant or teacher. Those who persevere are enriched and rewarded, being able to take what they learned and experienced in the Holy Land to a whole new level. Michael Greenberg is now looking to do just that.