Soccer / Sakhnin Coach Out After Ramadan Run-in

Naim made a controversial decision to hold a team practice on the first day of the Muslim month of fasting.

Bnei Sakhnin is already shopping around for a new coach after firing Yuval Naim Wednesday, less than two weeks before the Premier League season opens. Club officials and Naim agreed to terms for the controversial coach's departure after just one month. Naim will receive three months' severance pay.

Hassan Abu Saleh, Sakhnin's chairman, is waiting to see whether Marco Balbul will return to coach the team. The next choice after Balbul is Michel Dayan, team officials say. "We have no personal problem with Yuval Naim," Abu Saleh said. "Our ways simply weren't compatible, we didn't get along."

Moran Mayan

Naim told Haaretz: "I also concluded that it wasn't a good fit for me to stay. I informed them that a situation arose in which I didn't want to stay. Sakhnin's people are warm and good folks."

Naim was in hot water on Monday, less than a week after being arrested on suspicion of receiving more money from his former club than he officially signed for, over his plans to hold a morning practice session yesterday on the first day of Ramadan despite the team habit of not doing so.

Relations between the two sides got off to a bad start when Naim got into a confrontation with assistant coach Abbas Suan, a player on the team through last season. When Naim benched midfielder Haim Benun, management blew up. Later the team signed Croatian striker Dario Zahora without the approval of Naim, who was looking at a player from the third-tier Polish league.

Naim and Abu Saleh ended up yelling at each other after a Toto Cup match against Maccabi Tel Aviv last Sunday.

"I basically wanted to bring a player to get an impression," said Naim. "Bnei Sakhnin coaches until now tended to cut corners. I won't deviate from my professional line. My results speak for themselves."

Matters worsened Monday. Abu Saleh said he attended Monday's practice, and players told him Naim was planning another one for yesterday. He told Naim that this is not done during Ramadan, when some players fast, but Naim yelled back that it was his decision and that what was to be. He said Naim was banging his head against the wall and that rather than focusing on the team, the coach was looking for trouble.

Things worsened in the evening when, according to Naim, he received anonymous telephone threats that he would be hurt should he go to Sakhnin Wednesday morning

The chairman expressed disappointment that Naim didn't wish the Muslim players an easy fast before the holiday, saying the coach needed to show more respect for Arabs. "No coach who worked in Sakhnin yelled or cursed players like he has," said Abu Saleh.

Naim refused to respond to Abu Saleh's comments regarding him.