Free Kick

Kudos to Sakhnin, Ben Shimon Must Go

While Marco Balbul has built a better team devoid of stars, Hapoel Tel Aviv’s coach has been a colossal failure.

Deep into the game at Doha Stadium, with Bnei Sakhnin already leading 3-0, the statistics showed that visiting Hapoel Tel Aviv had ball possession for 66 percent of the time. So what? That ratio metaphorically represents coverage of the two teams this season – too many words have been wasted on Hapoel while not enough has been said about Sakhnin.

Keeping up that trend, especially after Saturday’s soccer match, would be adding insult to injury. Yes, we all sin by favoring the big teams. Under our noses, a wonderful story of the local soccer scene in Doha has flourished, yet we are drawn to the weekly local trash talk like a magnet.

We analyze Hapoel Tel Aviv coach Ran Ben Shimon’s mistakes to the point of exhaustion instead of trying to understand in depth the secret of Bnei Sakhnin coach Marco Balbul’s strength. The time has come to give a little respect to the methodology and work ethic of this man, and the amazing way he has realized the potential of the players at his disposal.

Personally, I had no doubt about how the game would end. The only question was the goal difference. Four goals was a little more than expected, but that’s only the sensational element. Sakhnin is higher up the league table than its rival, stronger in every position and playing better almost every Saturday. All that is lacking is names like Vermouth, Shechter and Damari.

The fourth nail in Hapoel’s coffin, the 81st-minute goal by Dedi Ben Dayan from the heart of the penalty area, sent a message to those who don’t get the hints. Ben Dayan was tossed out of Hapoel several years ago. Ben Shimon wouldn’t even include him in his 18-man match squad. Ben Dayan’s late blossoming under Balbul’s leadership is just like the rebirth of Mohammad Ghadir.

It’s a story of success that did not keep Sakhnin from committing nine fouls before Hapoel made its first. This statistic alone saves long discussions about desire, hunger and determination.

So, we have managed to write an entire column without wasting words on Hapoel Tel Aviv. One sentence is enough to sum up its story: Ran Ben Shimon is a colossal failure and has to go.

Nimrod Glickman