Soccer / Out With the Old in With the Old: Maccabi Netanya Fires Its Coach and Courts the Previous One

With six games left in a lousy season, Maccabi Netanya fired Tal Banin and offered the job to Reuven Atar, who left the club last year after a successful run.

Maccabi Netanya Football Club recently fired its manager, Tal Banin, under pressure from fans and offered the job to Reuven Atar, a manager and former star player.

After losing 3-0 to Hapoel Hafia Saturday, the club fell into the relegation zone, making it one of the two lowest –ranked teams in the premier league and a candidate to be demoted to the second-tier league at the end of the season. Players subsequently called for Banin's departure, echoing widespread calls by fans in recent weeks.

Club President Gil Lev explained the firing, six games before the end of the season, at a press conference Monday.

"Tal arrived at the beginning of the season and did his utmost under difficult conditions," he said. "The club was experiencing a crisis. Banin is a committed man and a knowledgeable manager and did his very best. We truly appreciate his efforts. Still, we have yet to choose his replacement and when we do so, we'll publish a statement."

 Banin defended his tenure at the club but said he understood the decision.

"We had only a short period of time to prepare for the league after many players left the club," he said. "Nobody has any complaints as to the seriousness of my work and good intentions. I was that sort of player and I tried to be that sort of manager. It's very important that Maccabi Netanya remain in the Premier League. I've always done my best for the club and today's move is for the good of the club".

Lev said he was awaiting a response from Atar – who had a very successful three-year run as manager of the club before bombing last year at Maccabi Haifa, where he spent most of his playing career.

"Atar is a beloved and popular figure in the club," he said. "It's only natural that his name would be floated. We're awaiting his response, since we want to see him back. I think in the next 24 hours, we'll know if he's returning to the club. Reuven has endured a difficult season and I still don't know if he's willing to take responsibility for Netanya. It doesn't all depend on Reuven. Any manager who arrives will have to focus on one mission: securing another season in the Premier League. If that goal requires all other team officials to take a step back, that's what will happen."

Mordechai Spiegler, the club's honorary president, also addressed the club's future and expressed a willingness to take a less hands-on approach.

"Tal arrived at a club with problems, not only on the pitch," he said. "We received the approval of the investors' group for this move. Tal and I will now take a step back. I'm not leaving, so you have no reason to celebrate, but I will be relieved of the pressure."

After speaking, Spiegler and Banin left the press conference without answering journalists' questions.

Nimrod Glickman