Grant, Avraham : Jews In Sports @ Virtual Museum

Grant, Avraham

Grant is the current Israeli national team coach and looked to lead Israel to the 2004 European Championships in Portugal in his first qualification campaign as boss and failed to do so. He remained in charge of qualification for Germany 2006 as Israel was drawn to face France, Ireland, Switzerland, Cyprus and the Faroe Islands in the preliminary stage.

Birth and Death Dates:

Career Highlights:
Grant made his name as coach with Hapoel Petah Tikva and oversaw Hapoel's youth team as they captured the 1987 youth championship. In 1990, his underrated fighters shocked the league. With veteran striker Nir Levin bashing in the goals, they raced Maccabi Haifa all the way before losing the championship on goal difference. The Petah Tikva side was so well coached that Maccabi Tel Aviv signed Grant to a contract.

Grant's first season for Maccabi was impressive. Nir Klinger was purchased for the 1991-92 season and he provided the needed grit as Maccabi won the title, 13 points ahead of their nearest challengers. In the State Cup, Maccabi Tel-Aviv beat Maccabi Haifa 4-2, in a thrilling semifinal match. Grant then found himself paired up with his former team Hapoel Petah Tikva. Two extra time goals by Alon Hazan ended Grant's team's dream of the "double."

The 1992-93 Maccabi side already included future legends like Avi Nimni and Itzhak Zohar but Eli Ohana's Betar Jerusalem were simply too good for them. In the State Cup competition, it was disappointment again as a memorable Reuven Atar goal sent the Cup to Haifa, as Maccabi Tel-Aviv lost in the final again.

The next year saw Maccabi improve in every area. Zohar was at his best and Alexander Ubarov was hitting his stride in goal. But Grant's team lost the title to a brilliant Maccabi Haifa side. Haifa did not lose a single game in the entire 39-game season though Tel Aviv still made a race out of it. However, Grant finally captured his first State Cup as Klinger and Zohar scored in a 2-0 win over city rivals Hapoel Tel Aviv.

In 1994-95 Tel Aviv avenged their previous defeat to beat Haifa and win the title. Maccabi were the model of efficiency that year and had far and away the best defense in the league. In the UEFA Cup, they brushed off Keflavik of Iceland only to face the tough German side of Werder Bremen. Maccabi was far superior in the home leg but a could not score. A shockingly bad display by goalkeeper Alexander Ubarov led to a 2-0 defeat.

Grant made a terrible mistake and jumped ship to Hapoel Haifa for the 1995-96 season. Rubi Shapira, who later committed suicide due to overwhelming debt, was pouring money into the team and lured the Grant with high wages and big names like Reuven Atar and Tal Banin. But Grant was unable to instill the Maccabi fighting spirit into his new charges and they only managed a fourth place finish. To make matters worse, the side he had meticulously built took the league and Cup "double" under new coach, Dror Kashtan.

Grant and Shapira parted ways and Grant made an ill-fated return to Maccabi Tel Aviv. The Gush Dan team had been taken over by Loni Hrtzikovic, a businessman with no soccer experience, and since his takeover Maccabi was unable to win the title. That 1996-97 side was particularly bad. Though they retained a great squad full of internationals like Avi Nimni, Eli Driks and Nir Klinger they could only manage a fifth place finish.

1997-98 was even worse as Maccabi finished in sixth place, way out of the championship race and way out of contention for a European berth. The foreign players were picked poorly and Itzhik Zohar was sorely missed. The following year, however, Maccabi demonstrated a marked improvement. Polish striker Andji Kubika added a whole new dimension to the team and Nimni was back in form. Maccabi came in second but did not seriously challenge for the title. The fans were far from satisfied and riots often broke out after games.

The next year (1999-2000) was a low point in Avraham's career. Maccabi finished sixth and looked pathetically disjointed. Grant tried to build up a new generation of youngsters from the Maccabi youth program as he had done so successfully in the early 1990s. But Avraham would learn the hard way that Guy Tzarfati and Dedi Ben-Dayan were not the players Zohar and Nimni were. The coach was fired after rabid fans tried to set the team's training grounds on fire, and many death threats were received.

After the utter failure with Maccabi, many were suprised when Grant was hired by Maccabi Haifa as coach. Even more suprising was the way he turned the Greens around. The team already had Yossi Benayoun, the best prospect Israel had seen in years and Grant's selection of foreign players served his team very well. Nenad Prajlia was a complete midfielder while Lithuanian Raymondos Jeutautas was a certified work horse. That team took the title easily, and in the UEFA Cup, Haifa barely beat Belarus side Slavia Mozyr on aggregate before being eliminated by Vitesse Arnhem.

The 2001-02 Haifa team was one of the most impressive in Israeli history. Nigerian teenage sensation Igabini Yakubu was spotted by Avraham and he set the league on fire. Haifa handily won the title, although the Greens lost the Cup final on penalties to Maccabi Tel Aviv in Ramat Gan stadium. Then their attempt at Champions League competition took a bizzare turn. Haifa beat Finnish champs FC Haka and were due to face Liverpool. However, an ineligible player was used and Haifa were disqualified.

That team that Grant built became the first Israeli team to reach the Champions League in the 2002-03 season under the tutelage of Itzhak Shum. Grant's success and good political relations with the Israeli Football Association brass meant he was preferred to Dror Kashtan as the new Israeli national team coach in 2002. With Grant at the helm, in his team's first friendly Israel handed Luxembourg a 5-0 drubbing. In his second friendly, Israel beat Macedonia, 3-2. Under Grant's leadership, the Israeli national team played to its first tie in the Euro 2004 qualification campaign against Malta. Though Israel secured an important 2-0 win through Pini Balili and Haim Revivo's goals, the team was far from impressive. In their second qualifier Israel could only manage a disappointing 1-1 draw with Cyprus. On April 3, 2003, in Palermo, Israel played its third qualifying match against France, the European champs. Though Omri Affeck scored for Israel in the first minute, France responded with a goal apiece from Zinedine Zidane and David Trezeguet to win.

In the qualifying round held on April 30, 2003, Israel faced Cyprus in the "home" tie, held in Cyprus due to security problems in the holy land. Grant's charges broke a dull deadlock when Walid Badir scored in the 87th minute. Striker Shai Holtzman scored the second in overtime, securing a crucial victory.

Israel was still in the hunt for second place, when a 0-0 "home" draw with Slovenia proved a tough blow. Israel was the better team throughout the match but could not capitalize on their advantage. In the away leg against Slovenia, the Israeli national team was dealt a death knell. A 3-1 loss with red cards for both Avi Nimni and Tal Ben-Haim on September 7, 2003 seemed the end of all Euro 2004 dreams. The humiliation was complete as the national team could only manage a 2-2 draw against a weak Malta team. The Israeli press began calling for Avraham's head. A 3-0 defeat at the hands of France in the final game of the campaign did little to help.

Grant fielded a brand new team for the 2006 World Cup qualification round based on a new generation of youngsters. Fielding several inexperienced players, Israel drew 0-0 in an away game against France on September 4, 2004. Israel beat Cyprus in its second match, held four days later, 2-1 in the Ramat Gan stadium. In an October 10, 2004 match up with Switzerland, Israel pulled out a 2-2 draw. On November 17, 2004, Israel also won the difficult away game in Cyprus 2-1. Israel faced two crucial home matches in March, 2005. In the first game against Ireland, Israel got over an early Irish goal to gain a point in a 1-1 draw after a last minute goal. Four days later Israel scored another late equalizer, this time against France for an identical result. Israel remain in the hunt for a World Cup berth, but face tough away games in Switzerland and Ireland.


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