Israeli football stands tall

By Danny Caro, June 14, 2013

In the end Israel’s victory over England counted for little, but you try telling that to the people who matter at the IFA.

I’m sure if you had offered Guy Luzon a four-point return from matches against Norway, Italy and England before the competition, he’d had bitten your hand off, and it would be fair to describe that tally as beyond his wildest dreams.

Now he can go to Standard Liege with his head held high, even if his post-match celebration was a little OTT.

For me, Nir Biton was Israel’s stand-out performer over the competition, with keeper Boris Kleyman a close second from a team made up predominantly of players playing in Ligat Ha’Al.

In the England game, we also got a glimpse of Fulham starlet Omri Altman. He certainly didn’t look out of place against some of the Premier League’s big boys.

All in all it has been a positive event for Israeli football.

* Portugal’s 1-0 victory over Russia means that the Israel national team faces an uphill struggle to qualify for the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil.

The odds are stacked against the blue and white, but you try telling that to manager Eli Guttman. He knows only victories over the top two will keep them in contention, and said: “Matters are still in our own hands. We will fight to the last and won’t give up.”

* There was a general sense of apathy around the Maccabi League’s end-of-season awards, with a record-low attendance somewhat embarrassing.

Like league chairman David Wolff, I was amazed that not even one representative from two teams who won league titles didn’t even bother to turn up to collect their trophies and medals.

Traditionally the awards are the one and only opportunity for teams to applaud one another for their efforts over the course of the last nine months, but not this time.

The hall was not even half full and I found it downright rude and disrespectful. Is it really too much to get all the winners into one room for 60 minutes? I think not. The chairman really deserves better.

* Team GB junior Max Benaim is my star of the week. He deserves a gold medal for initiative after finding a unique way of raising funds for his participation costs towards the 19th Maccabiah Games.

The 15-year-old organised his own tennis tournament at Chandos Tennis Club and raised £2,800. Having exceeded his initial target, Max donated the additional funds towards Maccabi GB’s Challenge Programme.

Last updated: 2:32pm, June 14 2013