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Assistant and return: Hapoel Tel Aviv's surprising bet on Michael Valcanis - voila! sport


Highlights: Michael Valkanis was appointed as the new assistant coach of Belgian club Open in January 2022. The Australian of Greek descent was born in Melbourne and began his career as a defender for a team from the south of the city, before leaving for Greece at the age of 22. He was one of the oldest players to make a debut for the Socceroos and remains his only game for the national team. He has never built a team, served mainly as an assistant and all his experience as a head coach amounts to three short stints as a substitute.

Ambitious, advocates for promoting young people and loves to take risks, but has never built a team, served mainly as an assistant and all his experience as a head coach amounts to three short stints as a substitute. profile

Summary: Hapoel Hadera - Hapoel Tel Aviv 2:1 (Sport1)

"I missed the day-to-day work, but I didn't expect such an intense entry into the role." Five days after his appointment as the new assistant coach of Belgian club Open in January 2022, Michael Valkanis was already required to stand on the sidelines after head coach Stefan Kramer contracted COVID-14 along with 2 other players. With only two training sessions and four youth players, Valcanis somehow managed to put together a competitive team, losing only 0-77 to Cercle Brugge, who scored in the 82th and 2014nd minutes. "We came out of this chaos with our heads held high," he concluded after the game.

Getting out of the chaos with your head held high - this is a definition that fits the Hapoel Tel Aviv of recent years. A club that since its last appearance in a European factory in <> has experienced dissolution and a host of scandals, was relegated and returned, changed owners and dozens of coaches, and last season escaped another chaos by the skin of its teeth.

Will the surprise appointment, for the first time in his career as head coach, help the new owners change the narrative or will he emerge as César Mendiondo's Australian twin?

Bizarre premiere. Michael Valcanis at the Covid-19 match five days after signing for Open(Photo by Getty Images, BRUNO FAHY/BELGA MAG/AFP)

Like Mendiondo, whom Hapoel Tel Aviv fired in September 2015 after only two league games, Michalis "Michael" Valkanis has been mainly an assistant since finishing a long career as a defender. The Australian of Greek descent was born in Melbourne and began his career as a defender for a team from the south of the city, before leaving for Greece at the age of 22. He started in Irklis, moved immediately to Larissa, played a bit for Pantolikos and Agios Nikolaos and at the age of 28 returned to Australia.

Valkanis joined Adelaide City in 2002 and a year later moved to Adelaide United, where he led to the Championship in 2005–06 as the Player of the Year in his debut season in the A-League. The good times also allowed him to make his debut for Australia, when at the age of 33 he became one of the oldest players to make his debut for the Socceroos. That performance in a qualifying match against Kuwait was and remains his only one.

He later served as team captain, before winning a celebratory retirement match in 2009 and being given the opportunity by the club to embark on a coaching career. "I got a contract in Adelaide and told my wife it was only for two years, in the end we stayed for 14 years and that's where our four sons were born," he later said. "I've played almost every role at the club." It started with the position of assistant coach in youth and responsible for player development, then was promoted to youth coach and in 2013 was briefly interim coach in the senior team and helped Adelaide finish fourth and enter the playoffs. Despite the passion and freneticism on the lines, Valcanis was moved to assistant coach at the end of the season and stayed in Adelaide until he was called home in June 2016 – a connection that also led him to Europe.

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Hapoel Tel Aviv's surprise: Michael Valkanis appointed coach

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One of the oldest players to make a debut for the national team. Michael Valcanis playing his only game for Australia (Photo by Getty Images, Mark Metcalfe)

The main man in Valcanis' coaching career is John Vanette Schiep. The former Dutch and Ajax player was in the midst of his second spell at Melbourne (Hart who became City) and decided to add Valkanis as his assistant. After about six months he was forced to return to Holland to feed his sick father, and so the assistant again became interim coach.

"We bonded in Melbourne, we advocated the same acting philosophies," Valkanis said of his relationship with Vant Schiep. "When he left I was coach and then Warren Joyce came along and we didn't connect. It was hard to leave Melbourne. People thought I was from Adelaide because I spent 14 years there, but I'm from Melbourne. I went home and it didn't last forever. I should have known, that's how it is in football."

Vant Schiep made sure that he would not be unemployed for long and called on him to join him in the Dutch Zwolle. "John's assistant moved to the Netherlands national team to work with Ronald Koeman, he approached me and it was a great opportunity," Valcanis explained. "I had two offers as head coach in Australia, but the temptation to move to the Netherlands and work in European football was great. After John left, they wanted me to stay. As funny as it was, John said he would like me to work with him in the future. I signed a new contract at Zwolle and after three or four months, John surprised me and said: 'There is a possibility to coach the Greek national team.' I enjoyed Zwolle and Holland in general, but my blood is Greek. I didn't think I'd get to work for the Greek national team. I said I had to go for it."

Go through three stops together. Michael Valcanis with John and Annette Schiep (Photo by Getty Images, Peter Lous/Soccrates)

Greece was then after a series of failures and the new team wanted to completely change the familiar style of play. It worked intermittently and there were some nice results like a draw in Spain and a win over Sweden, but Greece didn't get a ticket to the World Cup in Qatar and the team was sacked after almost two and a half years. "It's hard because you work in a country that wants results and is less concerned with way and style," Valkanis said in an interview with Australian media. "They don't care, as long as you win. We knew it was a tough task, but I think we did a good job of implementing the style of play. The Greek national team has proven that it can play good football and doesn't just have to defend and rely on attack. What we're missing is goals. We created enough situations and didn't take advantage of them."

While Vant Schiep has not returned to coaching since, Valkanis has found a new place in less than two months. In January 2022, Time Cahill, whom he coached in Melbourne, approached him and offered to join Open's coaching staff. The Socceroos legend is one of the senior professionals at Qatar's Aspire Foundation, which owns Offen (and belongs to Qatari regimes like Paris Saint-Germain) and had planned to hire Valcanis in the academy, but had previously placed him in a team from the bottom of the Belgian league. Valkanis left his sons in the youth department of AEK Athens, moved to Belgium and after about a month became head coach. "I guess they saw how I performed when the coach was absent because of COVID and they decided to appoint me, it came as a surprise to me," he said at the time. "I didn't work with the team in camp, but thanks to the vast experience I've gained in Adelaide as a player and as a coach, I know that team spirit and connection with the players can mean more than any tactic."

Overall, in his 10 games as manager (including the two as substitutes due to Covid-0) they achieved a single win and barely survived in the league, with the highlight being 0-<> away against leaders Union Saint-Gilloise. The farewell announcement stated that Valkanis was leaving as originally agreed, given that he had previous commitments (for the benefit of the Academy). But the Australian aspired to be a head coach, and this time not as a substitute.

He connected Michael Valkanis to the Qatari Foundation and a role in Belgium. Tim Cahill with the manager in Melbourne City (Photo by Getty Images, Michael Dodge)

Hapoel Tel Aviv is the first to give him this opportunity. At the age of 48, he will finally be able to lead from the beginning of the journey, pass a training camp and chart his own path. This comes after Ange Postecoglou put Australian coaches on the map with success at Celtic and a bid for Tottenham, and the Manchester City-Melbourne connection also opened the door to Europe. Patrick Kisnorbo, who joined Melbourne's professional staff along with Valcanis in 2016, coached Troyes this season (also owned by City Group), and their then-friend Joe Montemorro coaches Juventus' women's team. Now it's Valcanis' turn. "We need to learn more and work more because the feeling is that we are inferior on the other side of the world, while European coaches are in the 'Mecca' of football and their opportunities are greater," he said. "You have to believe in yourself that you can coach in Europe, and I have that belief."

As an assistant coach he was close to the players, helping them improve personally and focusing on talent development during his days at Zwolle and even more so at the Qatari academy over the past year. This is expected to be done with the promising young people of Hapoel Tel Aviv. But his resume as a head coach is rather meager. In 35 games as interim coach, he achieved a total of nine victories and was unable to develop a clear style, but changed methods and improvised according to the tools at his disposal. It served as a momentary stopper and was moved when possible. These three clubs held him in high esteem, yet did not believe that he deserved to be the top professional figure.

Hapoel Tel Aviv is taking a big gamble here, on someone who himself advocates taking risks. "People said, 'John took him everywhere, John gave him the chance, he's John's eternal assistant.' But I have a wife and four children, I took the whole family with me - isn't that a risk?" "I left everything behind and so did my family, who gave up comfort time and time again. Isn't that a risk? I believe it's dangerous not to take the risk. That's how I like my football too. I learned that my philosophy of acting is the same as my philosophy of life: I want to go out and achieve something, I want to attack, not sit and wait. I'm not thinking about failure, I'm interested in making things happen."

Will this happen to him in Israel?

  • sport
  • Israeli football
  • League


  • Hapoel Tel Aviv
  • Michael Valcanis

Source: walla

All sports articles on 2023-06-05

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