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Duty calls for Maccabi legend Nimni

Published: Thursday 6 November 2008, 18.40CET
Avi Nimni has been reluctantly thrust into the hot seat at Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC following Ran Ben Shimon's dismissal, saying: "I have a lot more to lose than gain from this but I am placing the club above any personal ambition."
by Ofer Ronen-Abels
from Tel-Aviv
Duty calls for Maccabi legend Nimni
Avi Nimni was not expecting to be thrust back into the limelight so soon after retiring ©Getty Images
Published: Thursday 6 November 2008, 18.40CET

Duty calls for Maccabi legend Nimni

Avi Nimni has been reluctantly thrust into the hot seat at Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC following Ran Ben Shimon's dismissal, saying: "I have a lot more to lose than gain from this but I am placing the club above any personal ambition."
Avi Nimni has been reluctantly thrust into the hot seat at Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC following Ran Ben Shimon's dismissal, saying: "I have a lot more to lose than gain from this but I am placing the club above any personal ambition."

Short tenure
Eight games into the season, Maccabi Tel-Aviv called time on Ben Shimon, with the 37-year-old paying the price for failing to meet the club's expectations. Lured from Hapoel Ironi Kiryat Shmona FC in the summer, he was the latest coach to crash and burn following the arrival of Canadian Alex Schneider as the club's new owner, leaving with his side seventh in the 12-team Israeli table.

Surprise appointment
The decision to appoint Nimni as his replacement was a surprising one. The club's technical director since retiring in the summer, the 36-year-old former midfielder is ranked as a living legend by the club's fans. But he never saw himself as a manager, saying in the summer that such a move "could easily obliterate in one season everything I achieved in my whole playing career."

'Code Eight'
However, when Maccabi's board convened on Saturday night following a 1-0 home defeat by Hapoel Kiryat Shmona and decided to end Ben Shimon's reign - Nimni seemed to have no choice but to accept the offer thrust upon him. Many likened his appointment to a 'Code Eight' - the term used in Israel when reservists receive a call-up to the army during a state of emergency.

On the line
Nimni did little to dispel such suggestions in the press conference that followed the announcement of his appointment. Having been associated with Maccabi Tel-Aviv since he was seven, it certainly seems that Nimni has put his reputation on the line. His iconic status at the club has never been in doubt. Even a two-season spell in exile at Beitar Jerusalem FC following an argument with then coach Nir Klinger after Nimni helped the club with the 2002/03 title did not lower him in fans' eyes. He was brought back in 2005 after Klinger and then owner Lonnie Hertzikovic buckled under an organised campaign by fans to bring Nimni home.

Calculated gamble
Appointing Nimni as nominal coach of the club is a calculated gamble on the part of the club's board. He has no coaching credentials whatsoever, but has the unswerving support of the fans. If he succeeds, handing the reigns to the club's favourite son will be a spectacular coup. If he fails, it remains to be seen whether his star would fade in his hometown.

Last updated: 06/11/08 19.32CET

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