After the tears and ceremonies, Hapoel Tel Aviv’s captain scored the last goal of his career, but then Maccabi Haifa turned the game around, presenting a parting gift to another veteran playing his last game – the Green’s evergreen goalkeeper Nir Davidovich.
Walid Badir will especially remember the 89th minute at Haifa’s Kiryat Eliezer Stadium, when he was substituted for the last time. 12,500 fans rose to their feet at chanted “Badir Neshama” ("Badir is a darling," in rough translation). Even the referee clapped as he left the field.
A few seconds later Davidovich was also substituted, and the crowd again rose to applaud the veteran stopper. All the Haifa players gathered around him and Dekel Keinan carried him on his shoulders to the touch line. Fittingly, as soon as both players had left the field the referee blew the final whistle.
“I enjoyed every minute,” Badir summarized his last game. “I am at peace with my decision. I had a great career. Maybe playing soccer is over for me, but life goes on.”
Davidovich was applauded every time he touched the ball. The game itself was meaningless, but both the Hapoel Tel Aviv players and their Maccabi Haifa counterparts wanted to give them a successful sendoff.
Davidovich admitted that this had been the most moving moment of his career. “I didn’t expect the stadium to be full. Every time I thought I’d reached a peak another high point followed it. I wanted to get into a major European league, but I realized this dream by playing in European competitions with Maccabi Haifa. I believe I will stay with the club in some form – I’ll do whatever they tell me to do.”