Soccer / Profile Chasing a dream all the way to Spain and back
Tomer Hemed left Israel a bench player but returns to the national team from Spain a prolific goalscorer.
Tomer Hemed is leading Mallorca to an ideal start. The team has seven points in three matches and is second only to a perfect Barcelona in the Spanish La Liga. The Israeli striker has accounted for three of the team's four league goals.
Fellow countryman Dudu Aouate, Mallorca's goalkeeper, says Hemed fit in quickly after joining the team in 2011. "The fans really love him," he says.
Last season, Hemed was known as a specialist in penalty kicks, which accounted for five of his eight goals. This season he is showing more versatility. All three of his goals came from the field at different lengths, including a beautiful turn and left-leg kick against Espanyol.
Hemed departed for Spain last summer and returned for the national soccer team's practice ahead of today's World Cup qualifying match against Azerbaijan a completely different player. His success surprised many, though not Hemed.
"I wasn't surprised. I always believed in my ability," says Hemed. "I went through a lot of hardships in my career. Maccabi Haifa lent me to Maccabi Herzliya [in (2008], to Bnei Yehuda  and eventually Ahi Nazareth . Even when I returned to Haifa, I sat on the bench. But when I got the chance, I scored non-stop." He racked up 10 goals in Haifa's last championship season."
The striker says that when he joined Mallorca, he felt he was in a dream playing against the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid after only seeing them on television. "I'm not living in a dream this season," he stresses. "I understand well where I am, and I'm living in reality. So a game against Getafe isn't like a game against Barca or Real. It's still exciting, but I don't think anymore about the days in front of the television."
Elisha Levy, who coached Hemed at Maccabi Haifa, also says he is not surprised. "Hemed is a classic example of professionalism," says Levy. "He has gone as far as he has not only because of talent but also because of his character and patience."
Levy says Hemed continued to practice as if he were a starter even after being loaned out so much and sitting on the Haifa bench for several weeks. "He simply never whined. Many players in his situation disappeared," he adds. "He has a mental strength that not a lot of Israeli players have."
Hemed was named this week to start alongside Itay Shechter. "I'm glad that the entire way I never broke because I knew where I was aiming and I believed I'd reach those targets," concludes Hemed. "The games in Spain are an experience, but now I'm focused on the national team's matches. It's less important to me who will play against Azerbaijan. The main thing is that we play well."