Soccer UEFA Cup Hapoel Tel Aviv Goes Looking for 'Lost' Brazilians

BRUSSELS - After Hapoel Tel Aviv arrived in Brussels ahead of tonight's UEFA Cup match against Anderlecht, and the luggage was on the conveyor belt at the airport, club chairman Aryeh Hershkowitz noticed something was missing.

"Where are they? Even here they aren't with us," Hershkowitz said as he turned to Slava Barzilai, the interpreter for Hapoel Tel Aviv's Brazilian players. "Why did they leave this area on their own? Go get them back here."

Barzilai went out toward the team bus to figure out where they were. Abedi was gone, and it wasn't the first time this season that the Brazilian midfielder had gotten lost. To tell you the truth, it happens every match.

It has been three months since the arrival of Abedi, Gabriel Dos Santos and Fabio Junior, and the club is still waiting for the moment that the three become an inseparable part of the club. If there were still questions surrounding the forward and the defender, Abedi was marked from the beginning as coach Guy Luzon's big "bunker": A foreign player that was supposed to lift Hapoel. His signing was highly publicized by the club management, and with Romario quick to give his support, expectations grew.

A day prior to the beginning of the club's European campaign, his place in the starting lineup was still not assured, and Luzon was deciding between him and Idan Srur, who has not participated in training on a regular basis since the beginning of the season and who played his first minutes of the 2007/08 campaign on Saturday against Bnei Sakhnin.

"They couldn't break him," said a Hapoel player. "If they give him a lesson plan against Anderlecht, it will be like a warning. We don't have anyone on the bench, and now Guy needs to provide explanations as to why he brought in such an expensive player who sits on the bench next to Adi Sabag in the most important match."

When Hapoel signed Abedi, the sums went through the roof. Over the course of a few weeks, the amount went up to $2 million for four years, and Abedi's transfer to Hapoel is the club's most expensive deal ever. Hapoel did not deny this at first, but after Abedi began to display bad form, stories began to appear that said the cost was lower than had been thought. It is still not clear how much influence Luzon had on which foreign players were brought in for this season. Officially, the club says that he was the one who chose them while he was in Brazil with scout Yossi Abuksis, but others claim that he went there only to see the "toys" that had been purchased for him.

Projected starting lineup for Anderlecht: Daniel Zitka, Olivier Deschacht, Roland Juhasz, Nicolas Pareja, Marcin Wasilewski, Lucas Biglia, Jan Polak, Bart Goor, Ahmed Hassan, Jonathan Legear, Nicolas Frutas.