Ran Ben Shimon: A Deeper Malaise

The disgusting, shabby manner in which Ran Ben Shimon has been treated by Maccabi Tel Aviv (see Jerusalem Post article) is a symptom of a malaise not just in Israeli football (though it is hard to have a “malaise” in something so poor to start with), but in Israeli society too.

To be sacked as coach, yesterday, after a mere 8 games in charge – a record of 2 wins, 3 draws and 3 defeats is no disgrace in one’s first season at a new club – is an example of the complete ignorance of the type of people who run the top clubs here and, more worryingly for Israeli society, the aggressive, moronic nature of many of the ‘supporters’.

If they were at all capable of reflection, the monkeys who booed Ben Shimon out – following Saturday’s home defeat to Kiryat Shmona, ironically his former charge that got him his position – will come to regret their mindlessness. A 38-year old coach who, last season, took the relative nobodies from the northern border to 3rd place, in their very first season in the top flight, will obviously go on to greater things. His successor, Avi Nimni – however great a player for Maccabi – probably won’t. And Maccabi’s management and fans will have only themselves to blame.

Much as I hate to refer to the man, it took Alex Ferguson over 3 years to turn around the fortunes of Manchester United . . . a lesson that Maccabi would have been well advised to consider.

Ben Shimon’s treatment is reminiscent of that meted out to numerous coaches before him in Israel, most embarrassingly – such treatment does nothing for this country’s already battered image – to Argentine World Cup winner, Osvaldo Ardiles. ‘Ossie’ was brought here to coach Betar Jerusalem 2 years ago, but was sacked after only a handful of games. Although he had failed as coach at Tottenham – they have had no less than 8 since Ardiles was sacked 14 years ago – he had enough experience and success as a coach in England for relative footballing paupers like Betar.

For a decent man like Ardiles, however, his sacking was a blessing in disguise. I had the misfortune, in the mid-90s, of witnessing Betar ‘supporters’ burn the national flag carried by a handful of quivering fans from Macedonia, following a Champions’ League preliminary round in Jerusalem.

Judging by the cretinous behaviour of many of the Maccabi ‘faithful’ on Saturday, you too, Ran, should be grateful.

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