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How good are you coming home? | Israel today


Eran Zahavi's successful debut against Aris Thessaloniki made us go back and check what happened with the former legionnaires when they returned to Israel • From Eli Ohana to Eyal Berkovic

The return of the many legionnaires to the Premier League, led by the biggest star of the last decade in Israeli football, Eran Zahavi, who last night (Thursday) made a successful debut in the uniform of Maccabi Tel Aviv, sent us to check what happened to the great legionnaires who returned here after a successful career overseas.

Or in other words: some of them became Eli Ohana and some of them were more in the direction of Eyal Berkovich who went to be alone with the alligators in Hamat Geder.

The late Avi Cohen

The first senior legionnaire, who did crazy things in Liverpool including winning the Champions League in the 80/81 season, returned to the position of the brakeman in his youth team straight into the eighties - the black decade of the yellows.

Cohen still had time to give a break to the coach who loved him so much, Graham Sones, in Glasgow with Rangers, but one year was enough for him to return to Maccabi Tel Aviv and retire already at Maccabi Netanya.

Cohen remains a figure in English and Israeli football, and will always be considered as someone who made history and returned to Israel too soon.

In another era, it is likely that he would have spent his career in Europe, not staying for the pleas of his team members from the age of 9 and returning to Israel too soon to the semi-professional Israeli football in the merry eighties.

The late Avi Cohen in Liverpool uniform, photo: Getty Images

Eli Ohana

When the 23-year-old left for Europe, he assured the Israeli press that going to Europe "is one-way."

Today it sounds almost imaginary, but in 1988 Eli Ohana won the 'Bravo Award' for the most promising young footballer in Europe.

A year before him he won the Marco van Basten prize and a year after that Paolo Mladini won.

Eli Ohana was a legionnaire who took a small team like Mechelen to win the European Cup for holders just before football "commercialized" itself and such Cinderella stories became almost impossible.  

After four seasons in Europe including one that failed in all respects in Portugal, he returned to lead his youth team up a league with 17 goals in the poor pitches of the national league.

Then he added two championships and established himself to win the never-ending debates on the question: Is this the greatest Israeli footballer of all time in view of the tremendous success in Europe and the greater return to Israel for the last part of his career.

Eli Ohana (center) in a Machlen uniform, photo: Getty Images

Haim Revivo

Is Haim Rabivo the greatest of our legionnaires?

In his eight seasons in Spain and Turkey he scored 55 goals, led his teams Celta Vigo, Fenerbahce and Galatasaray to new records and became a star in every house in Israel at the beginning of the current millennium.

After touching the sky, he landed in the "Egaltikos" group built by Jacky Ben Zaken in the shabby BA facility in Ashdod.

What started as a huge project, fell apart but Rabivo himself starred with six goals and six assists in 13 games.

In view of the project's failure, the star spoke of feeling "exhausted" and retired from active acting.

Just like his friend in the next paragraph, he became one of the symbols that it is better to retire after a huge career in Europe, more on that.

Haim Rabivo (right) in Fenerbahce uniform, photo: Reuters

Eyal Berkovich

It is doubtful if teams like Southampton, West Ham or Manchester City had as many fans as they did during the period when "The Magician" played for them.

Israel followed Eyal Berkovic everywhere in the British Isles to play and entire planes took off just to see him.

He excited the British and the Israelis and we only got to see him at the team's games live or when he came here with Scottish Celtic.

We hoped and expected that we would have a retirement year from him, and he too, just like Rabibo, returned to the Agalacticos season in the version of Lonnie Hartsikovich after Roni Levy did not want him in Maccabi Haifa.

The highlights of Barko's return consisted mainly of cursing towards the Israeli judges and a conversation with the crocodiles in anger at the fence and a rather sad retirement.

Eran Zahavi, see warned, all signs show that the Israeli judges have not really changed.

In any case, the alligators are already waiting.

Eyal Berkovich in Manchester City uniform, photo: Getty Images

Yossi Benayoun

The star of the next generation after Barco and Rabivo, insisted on not learning from the adults and after 12 equally amazing years across the classical continent the love of the boy from Dimona for the rolling ball, prevented him from retiring in time.

After scoring at the Bernabeu, he found himself injured in a friendly match against Bnei Sakhnin.

Even his only victory in the State Cup won by Maccabi Haifa after 18 barren years, managed to end badly after that same evening he hinted that he was leaving for Maccabi Tel Aviv.

Then began wanderings in the bizarre regions of Israeli football, including beautiful goals in the Maccabi Pat uniform against Hapoel Ashkelon and a fight with Elisha Levi (how can you fight with Elisha Levi?) and retirement in the Beitar uniform in Jerusalem just before the age of 40.

Yossi Benyon in Liverpool uniform, photo: AP

Benyon, a symbol of the love of Israeli football, agreed to wallow in the murky waters of our football when he returned to Israel, only because he did not want to retire in time.

We hope he will make the correction in his current role in the Israeli national team.

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Source: israelhayom

All sports articles on 2022-08-05

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