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Eli Ohana ( ; born February 1, 1964 in Jerusalemmarker, Israelmarker) is a former Israelimarker football player and later a manager. He is currently the manager of the Israel U21 team. He is considered to be one of the greatest Israelimarker players ever.

Early life and Playing Career

Ohana was born in Jerusalemmarker to a Jewish traditional family that moved to Jerusalem from the Wadi Salibmarker ma'abara in Haifamarker. He had 7 brothers and two sisters (one of them was from his fathers previous merrige). The family fought with financial problems.

Club career

At the age of eleven, Ohana joined the youth system of Beitar Jerusalem. The one who encouraged him to do that was his brother, Yossi. His father, a traditional Jew, opposed but eventually allowed him on condition he will visit a synagoge before a practice every Saturday.

Despite being good on the field, at school he had problems and his brother Yossi told him he has to choose, football or school. He chose football, despite his fathers resistance. At that time Eli's brother Yossi got married and took Eli to live with him and his wife.

In 1977 Ohana led the youth team of Beitar Jerusalem to a state championship at the youth league.

Ohana stood out for his extremely good talent at finding the back of the net and was quickly promoted to the first team. Beitar then played in the second league, and in his first matches Ohana showed bad games. But after some time, he together with Uri Malmilian brought the club to the highest league., and eventually to bring the club the first league title and two State Cups.

By age twenty-three, Ohana had enough with Israeli football and signed with KV Mechelen in Belgiummarker. With the money Beitar gained from the Ohana sale, they bought the Bayit VeGanmarker pitches used since then for the team practice. After one season, Ohana helped bring the club to one of its greatest achievements ever, winning the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup. His goal in the semi-final and assist on the game winning goal in the final helped write his name into the history books of Mechelen. Italian magazine, Guerin' Sportivo awarded Ohana with the Bravo Award which is handed out to the best young player (under 23) playing in European competition in a season. Ohana also took part on the testimonial match to Oleg Blokhin.

Despite his success in Europe, Ohana returned home to Israelmarker to resign with Beitar Jerusalem who were then playing in the Liga Artzit . After just one season he helped them return to the Liga Leumit and then guided the club to a league title just after being promoted. About five years later Ohana would lead the club to back to back league titles. An injury during the 1997/98 season led Ohana to retire from active football.

International

Ohana was first invited to the Israel national football team in 1983. After a friendly match Israelmarker lost to Argentinamarker 7-2, Diego Maradona said there is one great player in Israelmarker, and this is Eli Ohana.

The most memorable moment of Ohana in the national team was in a crucial FIFA World Cup Qualifier against Australia in 1989. Australia manager, Frank Arok apparently had made anti-semitic comments before the game. During the match, Ohana dribbled through two defenders and completely fooled the keeper to give Israel a 1-0 lead. Ohana quickly ran to the Australian manager and kissed the star of David in front of his face forever immortalizing himelf in Israeli football history.

In 1990 Ohana was called to the squad for a game against the Soviet Union national football team. A few hours before the game Eli Ohana and the two other legioners of the Israelimarker team, Ronny Rosenthal and Shalom Tikva found out their insurance wasn't settled yet, but it was promised it will be. Minutes before the match, the players found out the case was not settled and refused to go on pitch. All the players were punished, with Ohana receiving the worst punishment, banned from 10 league games and four years from the national team.

In 1995/1996 Ohana had a weak season and at the end of it he decided to quit international football. The Uruguay national football team was invited to Israelmarker for Ohana's testimonial match, which Israelmarker won 3-1 with Ohana scoring the first goal.

In 1996-97 Ohana had an excellent season (he was chosen player of the year at the end of it) and Shlomo Sharf returned him to the team, with Ohana again scoring often for the international team.

Managerial career

His managerial career started during his last playing season when he acted as an assistant to Dror Kashtan. After retiring he was promoted to manager replacing Kashtan. After leading his childhood club to a sixth place league finish and cup final, he left for Bnei Yehuda Tel Aviv but resigned after they were relegated to the Liga Leumit. After seven matches in charge of Maccabi Petah Tikva in 2001, he was fired and rejoined Bnei Yehuda, the same club he led to relegation the year before. This time he was able to guide them to a dramatic return to The Premier League.

The next season he was fortunate to keep the team from being relegated again. Calls came from fans of Beitar Jerusalem to bring Ohana back to the club and that is essentially what happened before the 2003/04 season. There he would stay for three seasons before stepping down as manager after the club was sold to Arcadi Gaydamak. He would make a return to management with Hapoel Kfar Saba and save them from relegation, for what he received the title Coach of the Year.In the end of Ligat ha'Al 2007-08 Ohana has been relegated with Hapoel Kfar Saba to Liga Leumit although they won the last game of the season.

On June 18, 2008 Ohana was selected to be Israel U19 new manager.

Personal life

In 1982 Ohana's girlfriend, Sarit Shwartz, had a car accident which brought her death. He spent all his time with her at the hospital, and his play on the pitch got worste, and some believed he is finishing with football. Her death made him dipressed at that time and many people who new him got away from him at that time. Those who supported Ohana were his brother Yossi and the owner of Beitar, Moshe Dadash, who treated him as a son.

Ohana is known as someone who never speaks of his personal life. When a reportar wrote Ohana's father fought with someone who cursed Eli, Ohana responsed to the reporter saying "I don't care about the crap you write about me, but leave my family alone".

In December 1991 Ohana married the model Ronit Ben Basat, with whom he has his only child, his son Tom (despite the fact that he himself considers the daughter of Ronit from her previous marriage as his own). In 2004 they decided living separately from each other, but not to divorce.

Some of his friends are well known politicians from the Likud (Benjamin Netanyahu, Reuven Rivlin), and he also came to the celebrations of the Bar Mitzva of the son of the leader of the Likud paty in Jerusalemmarker.

Eli Ohana's brother, Yossi, described Eli as an open hearted sensitive person but one who hides his emotions. A person that is a winner by soul and even if he is wrong he won't admit right away.

Honours

Team

Beitar Jerusalem





KV Mechelen







Individual

  • Bravo Award:
    • 1988
  • Israeli player of the Year:
    • 1984, 1997
  • Israeli coach of the year:
    • 2007


Trivia

  • In the youth team of Beitar he played under number 9, in Mechelen under 10, in Beitar Jerusalem under 11.


Notes

  1. http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/1,7340,L-1910377,00.html
  2. http://beitar-jerusalem.net/article_655
  3. Up until 1999, the Liga Artzit was the second tier of Israeli football.
  4. Jews in Sports profile - Eli Ohana
  5. http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/1,7340,L-2248913,00.html
  6. http://www.rsssf.com/miscellaneous/israpoy.html
  7. http://www.soccer-and-sports.com/rec/10-%C3%97%20%C3%97%C5%93%C3%97%E2%84%A2-%C3%97%20%C3%97%E2%80%A2%C3%97%E2%80%94%C3%97%C2%A0%C3%97%E2%80%9D/


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