"The tears fall by themselves," is how Yonatan Cohen ended his wonderful broadcast from Mendoza, two hours after midnight in Israel. The Tears Fall by Themselves is the name of a great movie by Eitan Green, but since yesterday this sentence has also been associated with a group of children/boys/little men, led by a tremendous professional who is much more than a man than a coach for them, who did the unbelievable, shattered all the clichés surrounding Israeli football and reached the eighth of the World Cup finals where they will meet Uzbekistan.
Until the 68th minute, the game seemed to be a combination of all the clichés surrounding Israeli football. A mandatory goal on a stationary ball in extra time of the first half. A second yellow stemming from the over-enthusiasm of a player who had entered 7 minutes earlier and committed an uncommitted foul 20 yards from the Japanese goal. And especially a sense of déjà vu for any Israeli team that finished any tournament with the feeling that we could have done much more, but fell because it is naïve, reckless, unlucky, fails at the moment of truth (just choose).
Israel is making history in Argentina. Japanese in shock, photo: AP
But this team is made of other materials. It begins with the wonderful coach Ofir Haim, who never surrenders, who believes until the last moment, his connection to the players is cosmic and he knows how to turn the lemon into lemonade, even in his personal life.
Continues with the players. Stav Lemkin, Israel's future defender, a true winner, who not only turns out to be one of the best defenders in the World Cup, but also contributes to the attack in the decisive moments (no coincidence, he did it in the team many times as well). Eli Madmon, who went through a traumatic season professionally and was one of the best on the pitch (awe-inspiring after a year with almost no playing minutes in Be'er Sheva and Beitar).
Omar Senior stunned Japan in the 92nd minute, Photo: AP
Dor Turgeman, who stepped into Oscar Gloch's big shoes, one who leads the front and does everything (his assist for the senior was genius) and I will end with a personal story about one, Omer Senior, whose story may tell the story of this team.
Senior was the one who was last sifted before embarking on the miraculous journey of the Euros. It is difficult to describe in words the feeling of a child who, just before the realization of his dream, everything flows out of his fingers and he stays at home and watches his friends make history. After the sifting, I sent him a message of encouragement and ended it with a sentence that I wasn't sure I believed would come true – "Don't lose your temper, work correctly throughout the season and see that you will be the most important player in the World Cup."
Ofir Haim is at the center of the festivities. History for the Israeli national team, photo: AP
Football is a crazy, unpredictable game, constantly changing. These childrenmen mature much faster than their peers. Dealing with the disappointments of adults must meet the expectations of parents who sacrifice Saturdays, vacations and days for them and, if we are fair, also for themselves. The ability of such a child to overcome disappointments and reach such a magical moment that he will never forget is what makes the difference and is worth this whole tough journey.
Dor Turgeman guards the ball, Photo: AP
Omer Senior, Ofir Haim and the rest of the players are rewriting, through their magical journey that is intertwined with their special life story, the story of Israeli football and we enjoy every moment.
And now face Uzbekistan in the eighth final. Needless to say, we believe that anything is possible. Surely on a morning like this the heart explodes with pride.
The Israeli national team in a souvenir photo, photo: AP
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And I will conclude, as my tears fall on their own, with my best wishes by saying thank you to Ofir, his staff and especially to the children of summer 23 who are rewriting the history of Israeli football.
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