It is doubtful whether the greatest screenwriter in Hollywood would have managed to write a script as perfect as that of Beitar Jerusalem: from a team that last summer almost disappeared from the Israeli football landscape, to one that now bears the title of "holder of the State Cup." The crises and obstacles came one after the other, but there was one man who managed again and again to make everything disappear, and to put the yellow and black on the right path - and that was, of course, coach Yossi Abukasis.
"Unequivocally, this season is the craziest season of my coaching career," Abukasis told Israel Hayom, adding, "All summer there were thoughts and talk about whether or not there would be a team, Liga A or not Liga A, courts, almost dissolution, a squad of players most of whom were tested, we just hoped to survive in the league, we got a lot of goals, but suddenly we managed to create a happy team. A team that brought the crowd back to the pitches, and the highlight is the trophy we won after everything we've been through this year. We deserved to be credited for all the suffering we went through. That's why I also had such a big outburst of emotions in the final, there was a feeling that the whole country wanted us to win this trophy. People came from Eilat, from the north, it was such madness that if it was possible they would sell 100,<> tickets for this game."
Can you say that you were the architect of the deal that brought Barak Abramov to Beitar?
"I had a lot of conversations with him before he came in. I told him, 'You put money and don't enjoy it in Bnei Yehuda, maybe Beitar will have to put a little more money, but if you succeed you'll be on top of the world.' Of course, as a close friend I told him that he knew he couldn't invest as much as the big teams, but that only he could save this club. Barak Abramov gave Beitar Jerusalem a new life, saved the club from dissolution. In Bnei Yehuda he only received curses even though he brought 2 trophies and we made the top playoffs, and sometimes it's not fair to owners who invest so much money, but today I'm happy that he enjoys football."
Avoxys Abramov at the President's House, last week, photo: Oren Ben Hakon
Can you say that Beitar Jerusalem brought you back to life?
"Of course. When I arrived at Beitar it was after the bad time with Bnei Yehuda (Leumit S.A.), that all the energies and everything were there to our detriment. I had conversations with Abramov about me leaving because a celebrant spoke to him and wanted him to share my salary. Barak told me: "You know that if you are relegated with Beitar you will be in a bad situation", but I knew that if I left the team that season in the league it could bring me back to life and I am glad it happened. One of the most exciting things to see was 17,14 spectators against Ashdod, <>,<> spectators against Ness Ziona, and they are all our fans, it reminded me of the great days of yesteryear and that was the greatest satisfaction."
You got a lot of criticism for playing Saturday this season after many years.
"It was disappointing that our fans, who subscribed, couldn't come to those games, but the club had no say in the matter because the manager decided that each team would have at least 2 games a season on Saturday afternoon. Barak and Kfir checked for the fans who observe Shabbat, but there was nothing to talk about. I came from a traditional home and I would like all our fans who observe Shabbat to be able to be with us, but these are things that are less dependent on us."
Apart from the fact that Beitar succeeded this season on the pitch, it also succeeded outside it. If in previous seasons every Monday and Thursday there were reports about locker room problems or other things, this season it was hardly any. "We had problems this season with players, every club in the world has things like this, like Dembele's lateness at Barcelona, but the big thing we knew how to manage and things didn't come out," says Abukasis, "As a coach you have 25 players, each of whom has moods, his ego, the affairs in his family, if suddenly he goes and doesn't go in training, and knowing how to manage the squad is even harder work than the training itself."
Avoxys receives love from Uzi Gofia, photo: Danny Maron
Jordan Shua, for example, was suspended at the beginning of the season, you brought him back and since then he has 'exploded'. Was there a trigger for this?
"I think what changed Jordan's mind was that Barak Abramov told him he could go. Barak and I talked about it, and Barak said, 'He keeps threatening that he has offers and he has offers,' that he would give up and leave. That's where he changed. Sometimes as a coach you have to know how to give up, sometimes you have to give the players another chance. We did it exceptionally well the management and professional staff. And Jordan had a great season."
One of your biggest crises was when Mejías didn't come back from his vacation?
"Listen, it's unusual for a player to go on hiatus and not come back, it could have crushed the team. I made a mistake in bringing him back because last year there were a few incidents with him and we gave him another chance. I swear to you that to this day I don't know why he didn't come back. I think he didn't play football at all, something very strange happened here, but I'm glad we managed to overcome that as well."
Aren't you worried that the bar of expectations will be sky-high next season?
"In football you have to be realistic and you have to have coordination of expectations. Anyone who gets confused and thinks he's more than he can do is a recipe for trouble and I'm not like that. We did an amazing thing with the trophy but next season we have to think about how to be in the top play-offs, I won't jump over the popik. Anyone who wants to think above the poppy for health, I'm not that kind of person."
Fox. Make a conceptual change, photo: Alan Shaver
Can you succeed in the Conference League?
"One of the hardest things for us is not to be ranked in Europe and we get very strong teams that are superior to us. We have to see what draws there will be and what squad we will have for Europe."
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"I think every coach dreams and wants to become the coach of the Israeli national team, it's the most fascinating and challenging thing, and of course that dream still exists."
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