After the loss of Maccabi Haifa Bran (3:0), while the team was still in France, the question arose whether it was time to give Sherif Kioff a chance, in place of Itamar Nitzan.
Dissatisfaction with Nitzan's ability escalated, with the 22-year-old Kieff on the bench. Already in the summer there were voices at the club as to whether it was time for him to take the reins. This happened after the collapse of the deal with Nathan Baxter and the fact that nothing was moving forward in the Josh Cohen sector.
Maccabi Haifa fans on their way to the game against Young Boys | Liav Nachmani
In the end, Nitzan was brought in as the first goalkeeper on the recommendation of the new goalkeeping coach, Itai Zilfa. The latter also worked with Nitzan for the Israeli national team as a third goalkeeper. Factually, since signing for Haifa, Nitzan has not been called up to the national team, but Hapoel Haifa goalkeeper Yoav Jarafi.
The fourth goalkeeper, the one on hold, was also not Itamar Nitzan but Gad Amos. As for Jarafi, the amazing story is that the goalkeeper of Hapoel Haifa today was also on the table.
He even spoke with Maccabi Haifa officials, and only after realizing that it was not certain that he would be the first goalkeeper, did he decide to sign as Hapoel Haifa's first. Had he made it to the greens and excelled, the chance for Sheriff Kieff would not have been on the agenda at all.
Yoav Jarafi. Gave up the competition on the green side of the Carmel, photo: Maor Elkeslassy
Itamar Nitzan is going through one of the most difficult periods of his long career at Maccabi Haifa, at the age of 36. The rise on social media is only getting worse: unflattering videos, clips of the covers in which he allegedly has a part, and posts demanding that he be replaced between the beams.
Players in the team hug Nitzan and hope that he will get through the difficult period stronger. Already on the day he signed, the networks exploded, and at the Green Club, which has several Facebook groups with hundreds of thousands of members, it is a wave that is difficult to pass under.
Maccabi Haifa conceded 16 goals in 12 matches, including the goalkeeper who arrived in the summer from Maccabi Netanya. Last year, too, he was the goalkeeper who conceded the most in the Premier League. It is important to note that even according to professionals, conceding goals is a complex element at the team level, but a red light still went off when the champions of the last three years, chose to go for a goalkeeper with such an average of absorption.
Itamar Nitzan. From the most difficult periods of his career, photo: Alan Shaver
For the past 5 years, Kioff has been marked as Maccabi Haifa's next goalkeeper. He excelled at the European Under-17 Championship in England in 2018. German Werder Bremen was willing to pay half a million euros for a spell after its representatives saw it in a big play against England (1-2 to the English).
The goalkeeping coach in the youth department at the time was Nir Davidovich, who marked him as a great blow. In fact, when it was necessary to break through, Josh Cohen came and took his place.
Kioff was loaned to Hapoel Afula and the opinions of professionals over the years, that he was not yet ready, delayed the opportunity to play for Maccabi Haifa. The peak was in January last year. Josh Cohen was injured, Roy Mashpati was the second goalkeeper and Kieff was returned from Afula to Kfar Galim. In practice, Cohen returned faster than expected, Mashpati sat on the bench and Kieff stayed in the stands for half a season instead of continuing to play in Afula.
Now, patience and difficulty in the stands could pay off for the 22-year-old goalkeeper, who is just getting started in terms of goalkeeper. In light of Itamar Nitzan's instability and the fact that it is impossible to bring in another goalkeeper, Kioff should get the opportunity he dreamed of tonight (Wednesday) against Bnei Sakhnin. If he takes it, it's already in his hands.
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