Everything Israel Thought About Soccer, Only Just the Opposite

Nobody can explain how Maccabi Tel Aviv so clearly turned into the indisputable champion.

Maccabi Tel Aviv's Premier League soccer championships is simultaneously exhilarating and humiliating. Oscar Garcia, the head coach, simply showed throughout the entire season that in practice the game is the opposite of everything everyone here always thought it was.

Just a moment ago we had here Motti Ivanir and Avi Nimni and Barak Yitzhaki and Maor Buzaglo and all the rest. And here, a few months of work and Maccabi Tel Aviv is the champion, and there are 33,000 fans in the Ramat Gan Stadium. A few months of work invalidated and belittled entire theories developed at this club for the past decade.

Here are the upside-down soccer rules that landed here with the arrival of Garcia: A deep bench doesn't create a buzz; major signings in January do not shake things up; intensive press coverage doesn't have to put someone under undue pressure; losses in the Tel Aviv derby and to Haifa don't unleash crises; the involvement of a dominant fan base is not felt in the locker room; huge expectations do not lead to disappointments. It's everything that we always thought about soccer here, only just the opposite.

Garcia could teach everyone here a lesson, but he didn't teach anything this season. He just showed everyone. During an entire season, he showed everyone how to do it. And at the end of an entire season no one has yet come up with a way to explain fully how it all happened. They can't explain how Maccabi so clearly turned into the indisputable champion.

In principle, only the general lines of this championship are known. We know that Garcia took a tense club and go it to relax. He took a depressed club and infused it with new life. He took a club that had collapsed and returned it to its former days of glory. How did he do it? Well, that's the part we don't really know.

For sure, it's the budget. But during this entire barren decade, Maccabi had such a budget. So how did it happen this time? Garcia has a battery of assistant coaches, for example. Everyone takes care during every practice. There was criticism of and hesitation about this approach. Here and there, witty and cynical comments would pop up about the topic of his coaching battalion.

But now no one is saying anything witty or cynical. Everyone is rather trying to understand what the battalion of assistant coaches is truly doing every practice. They understand that the battalion is doing something, but what? Garcia did not teach them what.

Now Garcia has reached the next stage. If he won't leave for FC Brugge, he will soon being building Maccabi ahead of the Champions League. As usual, everyone here will jump in – well, they already are doing so by talking about the next big test awaiting Maccabi next season. In contrast, a championship after a decade, 33,000 fans in Ramat Gan and, well, how can one put it – Garcia isn't exactly alarmed by the things Israeli soccer defines as a test.


 

Sharon Bukov