An Israeli team played in the semifinals of the World Cup yesterday. It's a sentence I never thought I'd write or say.
But Ofir Haim's magical team, which a year ago stunned Europe, reached the semi-finals of the World Cup and played with dignity and almost did the unbelievable; After a wonderful journey in the world tournament, she passed the favorite Brazil in the quarter-finals, in a game that will forever go down in the annals of Israeli football and advanced to the semi-finals with her opponent this time being Brazil's runner-up in South America, Uruguay.
Uruguay is a football empire of all ages, despite being a country of only 3.5 million people. A two-time world senior champion, a serial producer of superstars and a team that reached the final of the same tournament a decade ago (losing on penalties to Pogba and Kondogbia's France), which featured current senior team players José María Jiménez, Diego Lashlet and Giorgian de Araçata, among others.
Uruguay. A fierce rival, photo: EPA
The Uruguayans, in the best tradition of Gara Cherua, put together a feisty, organized, strong team that defends the team impressively and attacks in two ways - either by stealing after high pressure, or by playing fast transition when defending low. She doesn't try to move the ball and control the game at all.
This style corresponded last night with the style of Ofir Haim's campers who are looking to move the ball and arrive neatly from defense, through the midfield to the attack. Our team is fourth in possession and second in goal threats, behind Colombia who beat us in the 90th minute of the first game, but finished the tournament in the quarter-finals.
Ofir Haim's team is everything that is beautiful in Israeli society. It is led by an excellent professional, a smart, sensitive, egoless person who took the complexity of his personal life and turned it into an engine not only for him, but also for his trainees. He continues with an excellent coaching staff that surrounds Ofir and works for him, because he makes them feel that they are equals among equals. And of course the actors - who come from all shades of Israeli society, give everything for each other, praise each other no matter what their origin is and where they came from.
Ofir Haim. Yesterday, Photo: AP
When Anan Halailly dedicates his victory goal to all the people of Israel, and Hamza Shibli celebrates with his friends the equalizer in extra-time against Brazil, it gives us a lot of hope for a better future, with less judgment, acceptance of the other and especially much more unconditional love.
True, it's a bit naïve, certainly when you get these feelings from a youth soccer team, but in these difficult times, when you watch these wonderful children achieve together what seems impossible, it gives hope for a better future for our country.
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Israel's youth team. Huge pride, photo: AFP
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