Soccer / Premier League / Swisa No Longer Ignored

Striker's stock rises as Be'er Sheva rides winning streak.

Last season he scored 15 goals to gain recognition as one of the Premier League's most improved soccer players on one of its most surprising teams, Hapoel Ramat Hasharon. This season he has already scored eight goals in Hapoel Be'er Sheva's first 15 games, placing himself among the league's top scorers.

So why do we not hear more about Tomer Swisa?

"I've been in great shape for a year and a half," says Swisa, who turns 24 next month. "Only now, when Be'er Sheva is winning, does everyone notice me. Even when things weren't going well for Be'er Sheva this season, I scored two goals, but they didn't pay attention because we didn't win."

The signing of the young striker this past summer roused considerable interest in Be'er Sheva, but the team's mediocre season opening caused skepticism about the host of new acquisitions, including Swisa, which coach Elisha Levy brought to the Negev.

Now Be'er Sheva fans feel a connection with Swisa after he helped the team move up to seventh in the league table. "The fans love players who battle on the pitch ... and I give my all to the team," says Swisa. "I moved to Be'er Sheva. I live and breath the city, the fans and the team, and the connection is natural."

However, another connection looked more natural at the end of last season. Moments after Beitar Jerusalem's victory over Ramat Hasharon, Eli Cohen, who was Beitar's head coach at the time, approached Swisa and spoke with him for several minutes. Cohen told the youngster he belonged with Beitar, and the team needed a player like him.

The striker became excited and started the negotiating process, but Beitar's financial woes torpedoed the deal, and Swisa instead was sent to Be'er Sheva.

He says he is happy in Be'er Sheva and does not regret the Jerusalem option falling through.

The hope of Be'er Sheva surging to the top dissipated early in the season. Swisa says the team was completely new and it took time to come together as a unit. "When (owner ) Alona Barakat decided to bring in Elisha Levy, it was clear what that meant," he says. "She knew he was capable of bringing order to the club, to put the fans at ease and to bring everybody together to build something new and good. Even when the start wasn't so good, everyone knew it was only a matter of time."

After three straight victories, Swisa says he dreams of winning a championship but warns the team could just as easily fall to 10th place. "We have all the tools to be near the top and even talk about a championship," he says. "There's a good team here with good players, a great coach and amazing fans. Now we have to be consistent and invest daily in practices and games."

Be'er Sheva visits Bnei Sakhnin tomorrow and is in good position to win a fourth straight match.

Ilan Assayag