Soccer / Benado Appointed Maccabi Haifa Coach

Former club great will permanently replace the fired Reuven Atar; Benado's first official game as manager will be against Beitar Jerusalem.

Maccabi Haifa's owner, Yaakov Shahar announced yesterday that caretaker manager Arik Benado will permanently replace Reuven Atar who was fired 10 days ago. Benado, Israel's most capped player, went through the ranks at Maccabi Haifa as a player and and was youth team coach this season, boasting a perfect record of nine wins in as many games.

Benado's first official game as manager will be tonight against Beitar Jerusalem.

"Arik was the natural choice for the post, and we've done it before with Roni Levy," Shahar said in a statement, referring to Levy's promotion from youth team coach to senior manager. Levy led Maccabi Haifa to three consecutive championships between 2003-2006.

"Due to the situation of the team we considered bringing in an experienced coach for the difficult mission. We had numerous options including four foreign coaches and several Israelis. We decided to examine the possibility of bringing in Ran Ben Shimon, but were astounded by the price demanded [by his club in Cyprus, Larnaca]. Arik was handed the mission last week, we salute him and wish him success," read Shahar's announcement.

"This is the happiest day of my life," Benado told the club's website. "I'm proud and honored to be Maccabi Haifa's coach. From this point on I'm focused on the most important mission since I started playing soccer. I thank Yaakov Shahar for his trust, and will do everything to make the club succeed."

Hapoel Tel Aviv will host Hapoel Be'er Sheva tonight in Netanya. Tel Aviv's goalkeeper Boris Kleiman will continue to substitute for suspended Apole Adele, while striker Omer Damari is expected to miss the match due to illness. Coach Yossi Abukasis said that his club is already awaiting the end of its European commitments in the Europa League, from which Hapoel was eliminated two weeks ago, believing that his team will benefit in the Premier League from the European exit.

"Be'er Sheva is a tough team," Abukasis told his players yesterday. "If we reach the January transfer window in a good position, we can strengthen the team and try to win the championship."

Hapoel Be'er Sheva resumed practice sessions only last Friday, following the cease-fire. "It isn't easy to play again after a week off," coach Elisha Levy said. "This break didn't help us at all - on the contrary. We hope to win despite all the problems. After we beat Maccabi Tel Aviv we hoped to begin a series of wins, but that didn't happen."

Levy praised the Be'er Sheva fans: "They see we have a system, and they see we're on the right path," he said.