A man never forgets his first love, his first heartbreak and the first time he took a missile to the head in a football game.
It happened to me in Bloomfield.
The old Gate 11, before the era of plastic chairs.
I stand on a concrete tribune and look over the high separation fence.
A 12-year-old boy. My childhood stars are warming up on the grass in the yellow-blue of Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Shura Obarov, Avi Namani, Nir Klinger.
They were all my idols.
I don't remember who the opposing team was, it doesn't matter at all.
Suddenly, while I'm talking to one of my friends in the stands, I'm pushed from my place as if I'd been hit by an olive branch in direct alignment. I still don't feel the pain at that moment, but the people in the stands look at me in shock. Strangers ask me if I'm okay. Only then do I understand That my nose is bleeding. I'm still trying to figure out what happened, until suddenly I look towards the lawn, where I see the number 10 in yellow by the fence, looking at me with slight anxiety and gesturing with his hands over his heart key as an international sign of apology. I forgive, of course.
Almost thirty years later, I meet Zohar for a press interview in order to promote the film "The Flower Gate" which is being released across the country these days.
It's the first time he stars in a movie, but naturally the conversation quickly turns to football.
I tell him about the time I stole a bomb from him in Bloomfield, and he laughs.
"Write it in the article," he smiles and immediately qualifies, "but write that it was during the warm-up. There is no way I would have kicked over the fence in the game."
"Write that it was in the warm-up, there is no way I would have kicked over the fence in the game."
Itzik Zohar (Photo: Public Relations)
Like me, there are tens or hundreds of thousands who grew up with you, who see you as one of the greats.
You sometimes look in the mirror and say "I'm really lucky, why did this happen to me?".
"Yes. To be honest, because of where I came from, during a game or while scoring a goal I would say that. I was the first player to say the 'Shema Israel' prayer after every goal. I would raise my head and give thanks. I would always thank and thank And thank God, blessed be He, for the privilege given to me."
It has become a gimmick ever since.
Players started pulling caps out of their socks after goals.
"You know, it's the most absurd. I would score goals on Shabbat, but for me it was Kiddush Hashem. I would run to the crowd and say 'Hema Yisrael' and say: 'Wow God, thank you.' And today more than ever. Every night when I go to bed I thank the Holy Blessed be He for everything I've managed to achieve in life, and also for the less good things, which are trials for me. This thing, thanking the Holy One, bless Him, it evokes different emotions in me. Look, it gives me chills."
At this point Zohar shows me the goosebumps that stand out on his tattooed arm.
It's an interesting picture of contrasts, like the man himself.
Permanent external rigidity versus temporary internal softness.
This dissonance will be repeated in the conversation with Zohar, who looks like an original Hollywood star, but asks to meet me specifically at the "100 gram" buffet in Ramat Hay'il, where he loads himself a tray with food, then pays at the cash register according to weight.
No Choponi, no Davin.
"This is the most delicious food in the world, you must try it, on me,"
Childhood idol of tens of thousands of Israelis.
Itzik Zohar in Maccabi Tel Aviv uniform (Photo: Flash 90, Moshe Shai)
Everything of course goes back to childhood.
Itzik Zohar was born in 1970 at the Bat Yam crossing to Sima and Shmuel Zohar.
They lived in an asbestos shack.
His pets, he said, were cockroaches and snakes.
"My parents fought like a lion and a lioness so that I would have the opportunity to try to succeed. They fought," says Zohar, "we grew up in a very, very difficult place. They had no financial means to support us, and instead of money there was a lot of love and a lot of giving. There was a lack, I won't say that it wasn't There was. There was a great lack. But we didn't feel it because it was backed up by so much love we received from the parents. Football and talent saved me. My desire to succeed, to help everyone, for everyone to be proud of me and to leave this place - was the best protection for me. My parents and soccer." .
Do you understand in retrospect the difficulty of your parents?
"My mother was 16 years old when I was born and my father was 20 years old. And now let's raise a child in her transition with no money and nothing. Do you understand how much I have to tell them about what they survived and managed to bring out one like that, for better or for worse? So happily my children, who will be healthy, They were privileged to have another life, and I thank the Holy One, blessed be He, for that all day long."
Sorry for the stereotypical question, but when you grow up in a place like this, do you also contract in cases of violence, of crime?
If not for football, could you have deteriorated there as well?
"If I didn't waste all my time on football, and instead went to places where I saw crime, then I guess that's where things would go. All the kids that grew up with me ended up in those places. They didn't have my luck. Once you're thrown to the end of the world, And for us it was the end of the world, you don't have any options. You understand, all around us were dunes. After that there was Ashdod. Even Rishon LeZion didn't exist then. You have no culture, leisure,
There is a sea.
"Sea and field. My father was a lifeguard, and I became a soccer player."
Find surprising closure in the film as a successful gambler.
Itzik Zohar (Photo: Reuven Castro)
Those who played under tough coaches such as Dror Kashtan, Shlomo Sharaf and Uri Malmilian - suddenly found themselves under the guidance of the veteran director Haim Bouzaglo.
The film "The Flower Gate" describes the events of a Keshet Yom family in an imaginary town on the outskirts, which, following the entanglement of one of the children in gambling, falls into a large debt to the electric company, and is forced to spend the Seder night in the dark.
Zohar plays the character of David Danino in the film, one of the town's richest men, who also runs a kind of successful underground casino.
Because of your background, was it easy for you to identify with the characters in the film?
"Let's just say that the apartments in the movie compared to where I grew up are luxury apartments."
I'm actually interested in hearing how you felt about the main character in the film, played by Eric Mashali, who gets into trouble because of gambling debts.
This is something you are familiar with from the past.
"You know, now that you tell me that, I didn't even think about it."
I see you are defensive but that is not the intention.
I think everyone who sees the film will think about it.
It's a beautiful closing of the circle, that you recovered and now you star in the film in the opposite character, of the gambler who wins and not the gambler who loses.
"Well, actually, you brought up a very interesting point here. I'm not just saying that. Until you said it, I didn't think about it at all. It could be a cool closure. Yes. I'll see the movie this week, and it will be interesting to see all This situation from the sidelines. This could be a great closing of the circle for me, for a period that I would rather forget."
became a reality star.
Itzik Zohar outside the "Big Brother" house (Photo: Mor Shaoli)
You participated in 11 TV shows, and played in 10 soccer teams.
In other words, your second career is already more diverse than the first.
"Look, most of the footballers in my class, or at least most of them, go in the direction of dealing with football, in the direction of training. The most natural thing for me to do was to switch to television."
"I don't know, it was a very natural transition, something along the way that I was even interviewed. 25 and 30 years ago when you were interviewed and told the truth in your face it was considered arrogant. I remember being asked 'Maccabi will win the championship?'
And I said 'yes'. Because I knew we would win the championship. I didn't say it out of a place of arrogance. I was honest and real, without posing or beautifying, and happily I have remained so to this day. Moving to television was the most natural thing to do."
And now the move to the cinema makes you want more?
"Yes. I'll tell you why. When you're Itzik Zohar, you're a character. When I go out on the street, I enter a kind of character. It involves codes of behavior and conduct, and when you're a 'bad boy' it's codes of a 'bad boy' and when you're a 'good boy' it's codes of 'Good Boy' and when you go out with a model, or in a relationship... all the time you have to play the game."
I'm thinking about being on a set with actors like Zeev Vaaf and with an acclaimed director like Haim Bozaglo, isn't it terribly stressful for someone who comes from a completely different background?
"In the beginning it was very stressful for me. I had some intimate scene with Samdar Kielczynski in 'Criminal Report' directed by Chaim Bouzaglu. The amount of sweat I sweated in that scene, listen, I didn't sweat like that in the derby. It was impossible to film because I just didn't stop sweating From the pressure. I'm half naked with the beautiful Samdar, in a room 1 meter by 1 meter with 60 people in front of us, and she explains to me how to kiss and how to react, and listen, I sweated, and I don't sweat when they're not being photographed. As time went by, I got used to it. There's something about people who are a kind of characters Throughout their careers, that the game does that to them. To get out of the place I'm in and suddenly be something else, it interests me, it challenges me."
Enjoy the title.
Itzik Zohar with his son, Michael (Photo: Or Gefen)
How different is your childhood from your children's?
"There is no connection. When your parents live in daily survival and taking care of the children, you can't compare it to anything. I was 7 years old when I took two buses from Bat Yam Terminal to Jaffa every day. Leaving at 12:30 in the afternoon and returning at 10 at night. No phones, no Wise That's how I grew up."
I'm not talking about the ubiquity of living in north Tel Aviv compared to an asbestos shack in Mebara, but about the family envelope.
You say that you lacked nothing because you were surrounded by family, parents, uncle, grandmother - and on the other hand, your children may not have known such a lack of survival, but they did have to see their father leave the country for a year and try to open a new page in Hungary.
"Look. You can't navigate life on a predetermined path and expect coincidences and spontaneity. I'm not that kind of person. I'm a person who follows his feelings. Fortunately - and that's for better or worse - and sometimes when you go without paying attention, especially when you're younger, you hurt people along the way They are important to you and loved by you. But this transition was for the purpose of making myself a better person, a better father, out of a desire to give much more."
I've been seeing your older kids for a while in the gossip sections.
Not long ago I fell for clickbait on a photo of "Kylie Jenner the Israeli", and it was actually your daughter Gabrielle.
I must say that it's crazy in my eyes that Itzik Zohar has a 23-year-old girl.
"And Michael is 20".
Crazy to me.
In a framed essay I must tell you that they are both more beautiful than you.
"There is no argument here."
Modeling, and this exposure in general, after everything you've been through, is this something you wanted for them?
"I have nothing to do with it. They were born into this title of 'Itzik Zohar's children.' Gabrielle, my eldest, is less in the Kylie Jenner segment. She is doing a degree in computer science, studying 16 hours a day if not more. Michael is more cooperating with the title, enjoying the spotlight more. More looking for acting, modeling. And the little one, Elia, she is still little, 10 years old, all day with me. But she is also on her way there."
You say she will be a model and not a footballer.
"Yes. Which father was not. Actually I was both."
The Israeli Kylie Jenner?
Gabriel Zohar (photo: screenshot, Instagram)
We are both parents of two beautiful daughters, and I have to tell you that this is a subject that bothers me.
So let me ask you as a father to a father, who also happens to be Itzik Zohar, who had quite a few successes with women in his life.
How do we deal with what we know is out there?
"For better or for worse, I experienced and I wasn't afraid to experience. I'm not a person who is afraid of experiences. Whatever challenges me, of course I'll try it. So I saw everything for them. And when you see everything for them, you actually do the questions of the test for them, and mark the answers for them. They You just have to go through with the pen and make a V on the answer. I know how to explain everything to them and I know how to spare them everything. But in the end - everything, everything, everything, everything drains into education. My children also have friends who grew up in a socio-economic situation wow, And I don't want to tell you how crooked they are. Then again, it's all education, and it's all emotional and physical connection and closeness to the children. To be constantly on the pulse. Let them build their personalities with a lot of support from me and their mother, with a lot of protective covering but no Disturbing. To let them develop their personality on their own and at the same time learn from my good things as well as the less good ones."
Is the conversation between you so free?
"Everything. Everything. When I go out to hang out, I go out with them. Do you understand?".
When the story of Omar Atzili and Dor Micah with the 15-year-old girls broke, it broke my heart, both as a driver and as a father.
"Every father in a story like this has a pinch in his heart. Every father."
Even in your generation, there were cases like this in the junior and senior teams with the escort girls before the game against Denmark, but to your credit we can say that you have never gotten dirty in such a story, certainly not with 15-year-old girls
. ) "Let's move on. This is a topic that has nothing to do with me. We surf to places I don't want to be. I'll sum it up briefly: this is a disgusting affair. Repulsive. And it connects to what I said before - everything boils down to the parents' education and closeness to the children, no matter which side. But in this story there are victims - which are the girls; and there are culprits, even if it's only moral."
"Football players are generally terribly insecure."
Itzik Zohar (Photo: Reuven Castro)
And yet there is a stigma for footballers, which started back in your time or before you, and they still can't get rid of it to this day.
Do you think it's a mistake that we even refer to footballers as role models?
"Yes. I don't think footballers should be role models. The best of them? It's fine, let them be role models. For me, it's easier for me to connect with a footballer who may not have the greatest talent in the world, but with persistence and hard work and commitment and dedication he managed to reach the highest places. With love, He can be a role model. But those who were born with such a great talent and their talent is superior to many other things, I don't think they should be made a role model. I will not spit in the well that I drank from. I just close that well. Let no spittle enter and don't They will be spat on from the inside out. Footballers should not be in this place."
Perhaps this explains why, of all the thousands of active footballers in Israel, only Ran Yeni participated in demonstrations against the regime revolution.
"It doesn't surprise me. Footballers are terribly afraid of the crowd. Afraid of what will be said about them. They are altogether terribly insecure."
It was never like this.
I remember Avi Nemani, Ronan Harazi and Alon Hazan putting on a black cap and doing an election broadcast for the Shas. What, they weren't afraid of the crowd?
"Brother, the lags were different.
These players were bigger than anything going on around.
The surrounding day is bigger than the footballers.
The players, their way to protest or win a protest is only on the grass.
I can understand them.
It's not acceptable to me, but I can understand them.
They are very afraid of how it will be perceived."
Arrears at another level?
Itzik Zohar with Haim Rabivo in the Israeli national team (Photo: AP)
I remember you on the radio, arguing with Oren Hazan as a Likudnik whose behavior embarrasses him.
I don't think for a moment I thought you were a better or worse footballer because you identified with the Likud.
"We, and the generation before us, the game was not the only thing we had to sell. Today there are so many parameters that prevent the actor from thinking for himself. He has no self-opinion. There is the speaker and the speaker's speaker and the speaker's aunt and Instagram and the agent and the agent's agent. All these things diminish the player himself and his opinion. The situation is that you are nothing outside the grass. Only when you step on the grass are you worth consideration. So it is accompanied by so many barriers. When you come to talk to Eli Ohana, Haim Rabivo, Eyal Berkowitz, Itay or With Avi Nemani, you can see the difference in the characters."
The question is whether in 20 years we will already hear the opinions of the footballers of the current generation or will we continue to look for Eli Ohana and Eyal Berkovich and Co.?
So now it doesn't matter if you answer as Itzik Zohar the soccer player or Itzik Zohar the movie actor, but we are sitting here in Tel Aviv and around us the country is hurting.
You are sure not indifferent to it.
"Listen, I'll be remiss if I say that it didn't meet me along the way. I simply chose not to give in to it. I think the most important reform that needs to be done is to reform the people. You need to choose the right people for the place where laws are enacted. There is no way that only this side exists or Only this side exists. There can't be such hatred between Jews. First of all, before talking about a million and one other things, reform this hatred that comes from both sides in an irresponsible way. Everyone thinks that if a missile comes from Lebanon, from Hezbollah, then because they are in favor or against the reform, the rocket will know how to move itself to the other side. They are so wrong, because in the end our unity as a people, our unity as an army, is what will protect us."
How do you do that?
"If I now express one opinion or another, this hatred will be directed at me. I will not refrain from expressing a position out of fear, but as long as I am not in a position where I can influence. As long as I am not in a place where I can return fire. Then it will just be lost."
Do you think there is still any possibility of healing the rift here?
"Of course it's possible! This people was scattered all over the world for 3,000 years and gathered here only in the last 75 years. Of course it's possible, but we're extreme. Until we reach the end of something, we don't manage to fix it, understand it, enjoy it, hurt it. First of all, we We need to go to the extreme, and here, fine - we are at the extreme."
"I am the second Israel".
Itzik Zohar (Photo: Reuven Castro)
The plot of the movie "The Flower Gate" is not political, but it is hard to escape the politics below the surface.
This is somewhat the cinematic version of Avishai Ben Haim's second Israel theory.
"I refuse this, this polarization... I am the second Israel, okay? And I took into my own hands the place I was in and did not let it enter me. And here, I am here. So it is true that not everyone has the talent and not everyone has the luck, and I am not generalizing, But I certainly don't want anyone to be in the 'first' and not in the 'second'. Let it be Israel. I know it sounds naive and not serious or evasive, but that's how I see it. I have Arab friends that I grew up with in Jaffa. Ashkenazi friends, Sephardim , leftists, rightists - of all kinds. And I'm fine with all of them. With all of them in peace. The owner here of the restaurant is a partner of my friend, an Arab, do you understand? Come tell them to say goodbye. Try. You won't succeed. Because it can't be. It's just politicians that produce such a divisive discourse."
It's not just politicians anymore, we're already hearing about families who will celebrate Seder separately this year because of this polarization.
"There is no such stupidity! Those who produce this discourse, and those who submit to it - stupidity on both sides. You want to be stupid? Enjoy, what can I tell you. Some days the stupidity on this side is greater and there are days when it's the opposite. But over time, in the end , It can't be that families won't celebrate the holiday together because of political opinions. It can't be. It annoys me!".
Too bad Eran Zahavi didn't play with him.
Itzik Zohar in the uniform of the Israel national team (Photo: GettyImages)
It may be due to my nostalgia.
But I think about the football I saw as a child.
Maccabi with Obarov, Zohar and Nemani.
Haifa with Rabivo, Berkovich and Mizrahi.
Beitar with Ohana and the Hungarians. There are no such teams today that run for years and the fans can identify with them.
"Every game you came to the stadium, you would only see the club's shirts.
Not Barcelona's, not Real Madrid's.
All teams had superstars who were laggards, with an impact on the crowd.
If Eli Ohana had told the crowd not to curse, they wouldn't have cursed.
If my father and I had asked the audience to cheer - they would have cheered.
who are you.
Today the actors are scenery in the audience's show.
It used to be just the other way around."
And in terms of soccer? Is it just my nostalgia glasses or is soccer today simply less good? I'm asking you as a soccer commentator.
"Definitely less good. First of all, everything boils down to talent. At the moment, this generation is less talented than one generation or another. There have been more talented generations. Even in the foreign sector. Today, the clubs do not have the money to bring in players of the caliber of Pishont, Shaloy, Ovarov, Polokarov or Nikolai Kudritsky. "To.
You can't bring in players at that level.
Maccabi signed Ubarov for $40,000 per season.
Today you don't bring in a player of this level for $40,000 an hour."
There are also exceptions, at least for me, like Eran Zahavi.
"As for Eran Zahavi, I'm sorry for him - and for us - that he didn't play for Maccabi in the great years.
With me, with my father, with Derix, with Noam, with the Brumer brothers.
Everyone would have enjoyed much more than they enjoyed today."
It is possible that the team would also have reached other achievements.
Eran is huge, simply huge."
By the way of commentary, without naming names, the feeling is that the commentators today are also less good than before.
"I'll put it this way. These are colleagues and I'm not interested in hurting anyone. You don't learn football on Wikipedia and you don't do it on Google. You have to experience football. Let's say be a firefighter. If you read on Google about the conduct of a firefighter, you'll know how to come to a fire and conduct the same You'll just know all the details about what a firefighter does - but you won't know how to be a firefighter."
Always followed his heart.
Eyal Berkovich in Manchester City uniform (Photo: GettyImages)
Did you think in the 90's that the Pushtek who pulled you by the balls in the cup semi-final in Bloomfield would become one of the most important thinkers in Israel?
(Laughs) "No! To your question, no!".
People wait every Friday night to hear Eyal Berkovich's opinion on the situation.
"You never know where life will lead. Eyal is a very spontaneous person. He follows his feelings, his heart. He is not afraid to say what needs to be said, just as I am not afraid either - if I had something bad to say about him, believe me I would say it. And when it It goes, so it's okay. And when it doesn't go, then like other players of our size - we enjoy the edge. The edge is a safety zone for us. For every person, the edge is scary, you lose yourself because you're afraid. Characters like Eyal or like me, the edge is The place where we are used to living. So we always take the risk that could be the best in the world or the worst in the world - but there is no fear of that - because your character is strong enough to contain everything."
How many hours do you have to spend every day to look like you at 51?
"Well, not much. Listen, I train all day."
That explains the body, but you don't have the face of a 50 plus year old.
"It's a fact that even at my age I still get offers for modeling campaigns. The best tip I can give you is that I drink over three and a half liters of water with lemon every day. I always have a water bottle with me. I think water is the greatest blessing a person can bring on himself proactively".
Because I'm my age I have to act like my age?
Itzik Zohar in an elevator selfie (photo: courtesy of those photographed, Itzik Zohar)
אני יכול לזכור מתוך שינה את הגול שלך בדרבי בעונת הדאבל, שניר קלינגר השאיר לך קטנה ואז באת ונתת פצצה מ-25 מטר לפינה. יש לך גול שאתה זוכר במיוחד?
"הבקעתי 140 גולים רק בליגה, בגביע הבקעתי עוד איזה 50, 60 או 70 אולי. מתוך כל אלה, הבקעתי רק 25% ממצבים נייחים. אבל הגולים שלי ממצבים נייחים היו מאוד מרחוק, מאוד לחיבורים, מאוד יפים כאלו. אז זה נראה כאילו זה היה רק בעיטות חופשיות אבל היו לי גולים שעברתי חמישה, שישה שחקנים והבקעתי לחיבורים גם".
אין מדד של להגיד מי הכי גדול, אבל ממה שזכיתי לראות, בארץ ובעולם, היית ברמה הכי גבוהה שאפשר. לא נופל לא מרוברטו קרלוס ולא מדיוויד בקהאם.
"גם בפיפ"א הציבו אותי שם ביניהם. לשמחתי, כמו שאמרתי, אני מדור היוטיוב, אז אפשר למדוד כל משחק וכל בעיטה, עשו סקרים פעם מי הכי גדול ולשמחתי יצא שאני. היחס שלי הוא גול לכל שלוש בעיטות. אחריי נמצא אורי מלמיליאן עם גול לתשע בעיטות. אז יכול להיות שהיו כאלה שהיו להם בעיטות יותר חזקות, אבל מבחינת אחוזי פגיעה, לשמחתי אני במקום הראשון".
מי ישחק בסרט על חייו? איציק זוהר על הפוסטר של "שער הפרחים"(צילום: פוסטר)
אם היית יכול לבחור עכשיו לחזור לשחק כדורגל ברמה ששיחקת כדורגל או קריירה קולנועית עכשיו עם זכייה באוסקרים וכו'.
"כדורגל. זה החיים שלי. לעשות את מה שעשיתי בכדורגל ולשבת היום ולהתייפייף ולהגיד אולי זה. גם אם אני איוולד עוד מאה פעמים מחדש אני ארצה רק כדורגל".
אם היית יכול לגלם ספורטאי בסרט, איזה ספורטאי זה היה?
"יוהאן קרויף. מראדונה. מרקו ואן באסטן, שנולדנו באותו יום. מייק טייסון".
מי ישחק את איציק זוהר בסרט על חייו?
"מי שירצה, רק שיעשה את זה כמו שצריך. אתה באמת חושב שמעניין את הביצה שלי השמאלית הדברים האלה? מה יגידו אחריי? הדבר היחיד שאני משאיר, שיהיו בריאים עד 120, זה הילדים שלי. ומה שחשוב לי זאת המשפחה שלי. חיים רק פעם אחת, ואני חי לפי הקצב שלי ולא לפי השעון של אחרים, ולא לפי המספרים שמנחים אותם, לא תעודת זהות ולא דרכון. המראה לא מבקשת תעודת זהות. מה שאתה רואה זה מה שיש. אם אתה שלם עם מה שהיא מראה לך אז תעודת הזהות היא לא רלוונטית. אני לא נראה לגילי, נכון? אז בגלל שאני בן גילי אני צריך להתנהג כמו בן גילי כדי להצדיק את הקיום שלי?".
זה מפתיע, לא ציפיתי לציפיתי לנהל שיחה פילוסופית כזאת עם שחקן כדורגל.
"Nothing is clear in life. Uncle Moshe, who raised me, went for an eye examination at Ichilov Hospital, got confused at one of the doors, entered the stairs, had a heart attack and died inside the hospital. All in all, he went for an eye examination. Young man. Live, live, love will come. You have to live life. You don't know what will happen tomorrow. Tu Hab Pan. Everything else is nonsense, really nonsense. I have experienced so many things in my life. Nothing is taken for granted."
what about love
Are you still looking?
Do you see yourself getting married again?
"I told you. It's all about my cock. If it's good for my partner, I have no problem. The easiest thing in the world. I don't dwell on little things. Do you think that if I want to go, the ring will stop me from going?".
The flower gate