Elimelech, Shavit : Jews In Sports @ Virtual Museum

Elimelech, Shavit

Elimelech, a fine goalkeeper with great reflexes, is widely considered the best goalkeeper in Israel by the press. However, Dudu Awat and Liron Strauber are preferred to him on the Israeli National team.

Birth and Death Dates:
b. Sept. 7, 1971

Career Highlights:
Elimelech first came up with Maccabi Tel Aviv during the 1988-89 season, but he soon realized he had no chance of dislodging legendary Russian goalkeeper Alexander Ubarov. After four unhappy seasons on the bench, Elimelech left for Ironi Rishon Le'Tzion. Rishon Le'Tzion was a Second division team when Shavit arrived but his performance during the 1993-94 season resulted in a successful promotion campaign.

Elimelech firmly established himself as the starting goalkeeper in Rishon Le'Tzion's First Division campaign of 1994-95. Shavit started 28 games and conceded only 38 goals, despite the leaky nature of the Rishon defense. They avoided the intense relegation dogfights and finished ninth out of 16 in the league.

In his second season in the Israel League (1995-96), Elimelech improved significantly and led Rishon to the State Cup final after beating B'nei Yehuda, 4-1, in the semifinal; they lost the title to Maccabi Tel Aviv. Shavit was far and away the best player on the mediocre team, which finished ninth again, and Shavit realized that he needed to move in order to realize his potential.

Hapoel Tel Aviv needed a top goalkeeper to replace Jeroslaw Baku, who had returned to Poland. Elimelech was formidable, but once again was playing for a very weak team. Shavit and Alon Hazan were considered the only rays of light in an otherwise dark season. Only a superhuman effort by coach Dror Kashtan kept the Reds from relegation.

Hapoel's resurrection began during the 1997-98 campaign as new coach Eli Cohen, signed useful foreign players like Sebastian Simerotic and Georgi Darasilia. The team improved drastically, and Elimelech continued his stable progress. The team was in the midst of the Israel League title race, but the title was lost to Betar Jerusalem on the final day of the season.

The following season (1998-99), Shavit finally broke into the Israeli National team. Hapoel Tel Aviv finished fifth as Hapoel Haifa coasted to the national title, but the Reds left their mark in the State Cup. They beat Betar Jerusalem in the final (sweet revenge for the controversial title loss in the previous year), and Shavit became the hero when the game went to a penalty shoot out after a hard fought 1-1 draw. Shavit pounced on the first shot to the right hand corner from Tomas Shandor and saved it with great skill. He saved another and Hapoel Tel Aviv were Cup winners.

The 1999-2000 season was another great year for Elimelech. Hapoel won the league championship with gritty determination, and Shavit was selected by both players and sportswriters as "Player of the Year." In the State Cup, the Reds played arch-rivals Betar Jerusalem again. After a breathtaking match, which ended in a 2-2 tie, Hapoel won the penalty shoot out for the second straight time as Shavit was impassable in goal.

In 2000-01, Shavit was sublime but the team could not repeat the previous year's performance. Hapoel finished second in the league, and was knocked out of the Cup in the semifinal stage (by city rivals Maccabi Tel Aviv). The following year, during the 2001-02 season, Shavit made his name abroad as well. Although the Reds lost the title, they qualified for the UEFA Cup. They defeated Ararat Erevan and Gaziantepspor with relative ease, and then faced the uphill task of playing English giant, Chelsea.

During the 2001-02 season, the London side had one of the biggest budgets in Europe, and fielded international superstars like Gianfranco Zola and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbank. In the first match, many of the English first team players did not attend, fearing for their safety in Israel, and Hapoel won the game, 2-0. In the return leg in London, Chelsea were in full force and fully motivated after the English press had crucified the Blues for their cowardice. The Englishmen came over like a tidal wave, but Elimelech stood fast in goal and repulsed the seemingly endless waves of shots. Hapoel ground out a 0-0 draw to advance to the next round.

Shavit's performance in the match was praised to the skies and the player was profiled by the English and European press. Glasgow Rangers made several offers for him following the game. Hapoel then beat the highly rated Lokomotiv Moscow side and drew Parma in the following round. They shocked the hapless Italians 2-1 on aggregate before succumbing to powerhouse team, A.C Milan. In the league, Hapoel were the bridesmaids yet again coming in second to Maccabi Haifa. During the 2002-03 season, Shavit faced a stern challenge for the starting 'keeper berth from youngster Nir Rahmin. Elimelech re-established himself early on and helped Hapoel concede the fewest goals in the Israel League. Despite Shavit's good form, however, Hapoel could only manage a third place finish.

Shavit started 31 of Hapoel's 33 league games in 2003-04 and conceded a mere 34 goals. However his team was uninspired and struggled to score throughout the campaign. Hapoel finished fifth and are attempting to rebuild in 2004-05.

Tel Aviv, Israel


Career Statistics:
14 caps

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