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Israels stjernespiller

Lørdag d. 6. november 1999

The Stars Of Israeli Soccer: HAIM RAVIVO

Most of the Green fans of Maccabee Haifa feel certainly upset now -- their
team stayed without its best player for the last 2 years. The Israeli League
lacks now the greatest virtuoso it has ever seen. And will the best Spanish
keepers be humiliated like Edvin van der Sar was once?..

What expects Haim Ravivo in Europe? This is the question he certainly asks
himself in these moments. But the opposite question is also asked -- what can
Europe, and especially Celta Vigo, expect from Haim Ravivo? You may find a
partial answer to this question in a short curriculum vitae of Haim Ravivo
I've written here.

******************************************************************************

Haim Ravivo, 24.5, was born in Ashdod in February 1972. Naturally, he made
his first steps in his native stadium in Ashdod, one of the best stadia all
over the country. The teams in Ashdod, however, were then far from being spo-
ken about or taken into any serious consideration, and so the talented young-
ster aspired to find the good team to start his career in.

He was lucky -- after a Championship of 1989-90 Bnei-Yehuda finished just the
10th in 1990-91, and its manager Giora Spiegel understood some new, young and
talented players must be bought, altogether with the experienced ones to in-
spire the confidence. Ravivo's skill captured Spiegel's eye, and the player
was bought by the Oranges.

Ravivo's career would never be flourishing hadn't it been for Bnei-Yehuda. A
thinking and clever coach is very important for the beginners, and Giora Spi-
egel with his calm manners and a great playing experience, both Israeli and
European, was the one. Besides, Ravivo's purchase was accompanied by buying
the young Alon Mizrahi from Hapoel Tel-Aviv and the experienced Niko Kudrits-
ki (of blessed memory) from Dnepr Dnepropetrovsk, then USSR. The three, after
a certain period of acclimatisation and getting familiar with each other,
started to be a lethal force. The best attacking trio ever seen in Israel had
Mizrahi near the goal, Ravivo as an attacking midfielder and Kudritski bridg-
ing between the 2, both scoring and making goal passes. People came from Eu-
rope to see the miracles the three performed.

In the season of 1991-92 the three were the best and maybe the only valuable
players of Bnei-Yehuda, and it still was enough to take the Vice-Championship
after a long and stubborn fight against Maccabee Tel-Aviv for the title. But
the golden time of the three were during the season of 1992-93 -- the team
finished the 3d, after Beitar Jerusalem and Maccabee Tel-Aviv, but scored 66
goals, 53 of those (!) scored by this unstoppable attacking line. Mizrahi was
"The Best Israeli Scorer" with 26 goals, Kudritski finished with 17 goals and
the title of "The 2nd Best Israeli Scorer"; but those wouldn't be scored with
no numerous assists of Ravivo who in addition scored 10 times himself.

This season, we saw from Ravivo the sparkles of true geniosity. In the situa-
tion of 3:3 in Kiryat-Eliezer, 5 minutes from time, Ravivo took the responsi-
bility to pass 3 defenders and to roll the winner past Victor Chanov, mission
close to impossible at that time. The story of the Championship was factually
over after Bnei-Yehuda's victory over Maccabee Tel-Aviv, 3:2; Ravivo made a
goal pass to Alon Mizrahi and then scored himself, getting the ball into the
box from Kudritski and making a move to let Uvarov sit down and bouncing the
ball centimeters over the keeper's stretched hands, a magnificent effort no
one ever tried to perform against the former National keeper of the USSR. But
most of all, I remember the effort of Ravivo against Beitar Tel-Aviv -- Kud-
ritski made a pass to Ravivo 25 meters diagonally from the net, at half a
height, and the latter shot a left foot volley to the right high corner; had
not it been for an incredible flight of Bonnie Ginzburg to parry the ball to
a corner, we would've seen "The Goal Of The Year".

In the season of 1993-94, it was the end of the trio story in Bnei-Yehuda.
Mizrahi went to Maccabee Haifa, Ravivo left for Hapoel Tel-Aviv, and Niko
stayed to save Bnei-Yehuda from relegation; he succeeded in this, but lost
his life in a tragic traffic accident near Raananna. Nevertheless, his 2 pu-
pils and partners continued to show their tremendous skills. Mizrahi had a
wonderful part in Maccabee Haifa's golden season, scoring 28 goals ("The Best
Israeli Scorer", for the 3d consecutive year) and beating Parma away in the
Cup Winners' Cup. And Ravivo was the man to bring Hapoel Tel-Aviv singlefoot-
edly the 5th place and the Cup final; he scored 10 goals, one of them, the
away winner against Maccabee Netanya, to be remembered for long after being
performed Negrete-styled. In "The Best 11 Of The Season", Ravivo was the only
player not from Maccabee Haifa to be included. And here started his tremendo-
usly fast rise to the glory.

Alon Mizrahi left Maccabee Haifa, and the name of Ravivo naturally appeared
as the name of a natural substitute for the talented forward. Ravivo put on
the green shirt and showed his leadership during the very first game of his,
against Casino Zalzburg in the Champions' League. After a nervous summer of
changing the clubs, Ravivo was able to play just 80 minutes against the bad
rival, but scored from a penalty kick, performed one great deed to be denied
by the keeper and dominated on the field; during the ten last minutes without
Ravivo, Haifa conceded 2 goals to lose at home, 1:2.

The season of 1994-95 became the season of Ravivo, "The Best Israeli Player"
and "The Best Israeli Scorer" altogether with Amir Turgeman. He scored 17 go-
als in the season of 30 games and made numerous goal passes, and he was the
force to lead Maccabee Haifa in its mediocre season to win the Vice-Champion-
ship, falling behind Maccabee Tel-Aviv just in the last week. "The Game Of
Ravivo" was the one against Maccabee Ironi Ashdod away (6:1), where he scored
twice and made 3 (!) goal passes in addition; but the best moment was his go-
al against Maccabee Tel-Aviv, a volley bomb at half a height to pass 30 me-
ters from his left foot to the left corner of Uvarov. Slipping the Champion-
ship, Maccabee Haifa took the Cup; the team was close to panic being down at
home, 0:2 after just 10 minutes of the game to Hapoel Kefar-Saba from the Co-
untry League; however, Ravivo earned 2 penalties, both scored by Kandaurov,
and then registered a terrific solo penetration to result into a winner, in
the stage of quarterfinals.

The season of 1994-95 has started simultaneously with the EC'96 preliminaries
and already then there was no doubt Ravivo should be included into the Nati-
onal team for those important official games. The goal pass of him enabled
Ronen Harazi to score the 2nd goal against Poland and to bring the world an-
other sensation - 2:1 to Israel! Then, Ravivo's free kick from the left wing
landed on Ronen Harazi's head on its way to the Israeli victory over Azerbai-
jan, 2:0. In the following game against Romania, Ravivo was very active and
constantly threatened the goal of Stelea; it ended 1:1. Then, Ronen Harazi
returned a great assist to Ravivo, but the latter failed to beat the excel-
lent Bernard Lama; still, Ravivo made an important part of defensive work ag-
ainst the French pressure to leave France with a bitter taste of another 0:0.
Finally, a great lob of Ravivo over Joseph Wandzyk in one-to-one gave Israel
a temporary lead in Poland, 2:1, but the game ended with 4:3 to the hosts.

The season of 1995-96 started for Ravivo and Maccabee Haifa with a bitter Eu-
ropean disappointment, and though Ravivo scored in Faroe Islands from a di-
rect free kick, his team lost, still passing to the next round on aggregate
but experiencing the humiliation against Sporting Lisbon later on. However,
in the League Ravivo was just perfect, with 26 goals and the title of "The
Best Israeli Scorer" for the 2nd consecutive season. Despite the great form
of Ravivo, Maccabee Haifa was again the second, losing the Championship to
its most hated rivals from Maccabee Tel-Aviv. The keeper of Tel-Aviv, Alexan-
der Uvarov, defeated Ravivo in a close fight for the title of "The Best Isra-
eli Player".

Ravivo scored a fantastic goal against Hapoel Beer-Sheva, turning for 120 de-
grees to meet with his left-foot volley killer the preparation of Moshe Glam.
His 2 goals against Hapoel Beit-Shean and the last effort of the 3 against
Beitar Tel-Aviv will be remembered for long, as his tremendous free kicks vs
Rishon le-Zion and the same Beitar Tel-Aviv. And his two bicycle kicks to hit
the bars of Maccabee Tel-Aviv and Hapoel Tsafririm Holon will also be recall-
ed for a long time.

Not only the Israeli keepers suffered from Ravivo, but also Edvin van der
Sar, the keeper of Ajax, while playing in a friendly game against Maccabee
Haifa here, in Kiryat-Eliezer. Real Madrid, Milan and Gremio failed to do in
570 aggregate minutes (!) what Ravivo did just in 3. Getting a ball from Ber-
kovich, he approached van der Sar, lay the keeper down, rolled the ball past
him and then rolled it into an empty net. The fans amongst you, seeing the
wonderful temporary equalizer of Davor Suker against Germany in Euro'96 --
that Ravivo's effort was similar, very similar.

Considering the European players, I would say Haim Ravivo reminds me of Youri
Djorkaeff. Being even alike Djorkaeff in his appearance, Ravivo has the same
view of the field, the same aspiration to score, the same technique, the same
virtuosity. The opportunity is yours, Haim Ravivo! Use it!