Elad Lipshitz / Penalty Area |

Dear Brand Name, Did You Help Get Maccabi Kabilio Promoted?

Many coaches in Israel have more accomplishments to their name than Arik Benado. So why is he at Maccabi Haifa and they in Jaffa and Ashkelon?

Elad Lipshitz
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Elad Lipshitz

Dear brand name, did you help get Maccabi Kabilio promoted?

Many coaches in Israel have more accomplishments to their name than Arik Benado. So why is he at Maccabi Haifa and they in Jaffa and Ashkelon?

It would be a crying shame if Hapoel Be'er Sheva turns out to be just another team in your average Premier League season, and let's hope that the refreshing wonder keeps up the good work. On Monday, by completely turning around the game in the final minutes, the team revealed another element in its arsenal — a winning attitude.

Some 8,000 spectators gathered in Be'er Sheva's Vasermil Stadium, and it was exactly what the league needs. Nothing beats the joy of a crowd that is used to this winner’s mentality. It suddenly sprung out of nowhere, just moments before they came to terms with the beginning of the end of their wondrous start. Then the wonder returned and announced that it was here to stay.

So, the thousands will come back to the stadium for the next game. They are what the league needs, and not the stone-throwing Beitar Jerusalem fans.

In contrast, the picture at Be'er Sheva is a little too good and stirs up some fear. It is scary to think that perhaps the fans will never be satisfied. They have already begun to believe in the team, that it will restore them to its days of glory and is off to its best start since the championship team of the 1970s. It's a problem that is likely to pop up — there’s an enormous gap between reality and expectations. It's likely that down the road the thousands of fans won't agree to accept less than the team repeating the way those championship seasons ended.

Untested brand

Here’s a partial list of coaches in Israeli soccer who have more accomplishments to their name than Maccabi Haifa coach Arik Benado, yet Maccabi Haifa never even considered hiring them: Nissan Yehezkel, Tomer Kashtan, Sliman Azabarga, Yossi Zuzut, Salman Amar, Haim Sirotkin, Lior Zada, Shay Maor, Itzhak Tayar. All these coaches have been tested in their careers and have coached more than Benado. That’s a fact. And still, you wouldn't dream of any of them being hired tomorrow by Maccabi Haifa.

Benado is not a victim and the media is not to blame for his situation. On the contrary, Benado is a prince, thanks to the press. The one who is currently serving as the head coach in one of the country’s two biggest soccer clubs was put into the position last season as if it was the most natural appointment. Thanks to familiarity in the press he enjoys being profiled as a soccer guy, a personality, a figure who gets it. Thus, on the one hand Benado exists as a brand name, and on the other hand Benado the coach is unproven; no one performed a background check and no one in practice has a clue how he is any better, if at all, than Sirotkin or Kashtan.

Take for example Danny Golan. Have you heard of him? Last season, Golan coached Nazareth Ilit, an impoverished team. Life is tough — conditions there don't exactly match those at Maccabi Haifa. However, Golan had a great year in the jungle of Nazareth Ilit. He cleared a path to third place in the second-tier National League, and the team nearly got promoted to the Premier League. He did all of this just to get a job this season with Hapoel Ashkelon, where he will try now to maneuver between the raindrops and somehow win under the management of Prosper Agazi.

Benado, in contrast, is a brand name, but would he succeed this season at Ashkelon?

One can surmise how fans and press would react if, say, Lior Zada would be appointed as Maccabi Haifa’s coach. It would be a shock, but it’s a mistake to believe that the coach currently at Haifa is of any greater quality than Zada. It's hard not to think what would have happened if Benado weren't a brand, but rather simply another coach who arrived at Maccabi Kabilio Jaffa of the A League South.

Benado, a coach at the beginning of his journey, is completely unproven. Zada, a coach at the beginning of his journey too, has already managed to get two teams promoted in the lower leagues. The bottom line is there is a reasonable chance that Kabilio Jaffa has a better coach this season than the one at Haifa’s Kiryat Eliezer Stadium.

When you look at the pitch it's a little hard to digest it all. On the outside it has not registered that there is a professional here who is less proven than Azabarga or Zuzut. On the outside we can only see Benado the brand. He is burned into our consciousness as someone who belongs. It happens because it is hard not to connect him to Maccabi Haifa, and here exactly lies the mistake. There is no need to ascribe Benado, rather to take a good look at him as another fresh coach who is grasping his way. In his case, it turns out to be happening in Haifa.

In the previous season Benado entered a situation that was almost impossible to fail in. He arrived at a Maccabi Haifa without any goals and served as a psychological savior. He and Yaniv Katan, two symbols, together turned into a pair of psychological saviors and Haifa somehow started to get some results in a world devoid of expectations. But the joint labor of the symbols was in fact the work of players, not of coaches — to lead the locker room, to instill the team with spirit. It is what Haifa needed last season after being down in the dumps. This season, it needs a lot more.

Benado came to the Sakhnin pitch on Saturday dressed in the club's jersey. For the first time since he entered the role, he did not boast and did not embellish. He didn't try to be chic or stylish, rather a simple club shirt — perhaps that is the message he wanted to convey: "I came to work."

How do you say it? It's probably that this is an initial direction, the start, but a lot more will be required than this in order to get Kabilio promoted.

Arik Benado, Maccabi Haifa's coach and former captain, with club owner Yaakov Shahar.Credit: Sharon Bukov

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