Holtzman spent most of his promising career moving from club to club without fully realizing his potential, but is now back at his best with Ashdod and has been recalled to the Israeli national squad.
Birth and Death Dates:
b. Jan. 1, 1974
A fine product of the Maccabi Netanya youth system, Holtzman was promoted to the youth scheme at the age of fourteen and by age sixteen, legendary Netanya coach Mordechai Spiegler was using him in the senior team. The youngest player in the Israeli top division during the 1990-91 season, Shai was very ambitious and was upset at not earning a permanent place in the starting lineup. He moved to Maccabi Haifa before he turned twenty.
His first season at Haifa was with the great 1993-94 side that took the country by storm. With Alon Mizrahi banging in the goals, Holtzman was relegated to a substitute role. That great Haifa team beat Torpedo Moscow and Parma away from home and Holtzman played a key role in the former achievement. Shai scored the 3-1 winner in the second leg (3-2 on aggregate) four minutes from time. Haifa also won the league championship and Toto cup with Holtzman's help.
Prior to the 1994-95 season, the Greens purchased Haim Revivo; and Holtzman, realizing he could not develop any further in Haifa, headed off to Tzafririm Holon. Having scored one league goal with Maccabi, Holtzman reached a final tally of 13 with Holon. Shai was voted "Player of the Year" by both Holon fans and the Holon press and he was even called up to the national team. Holon finshed the season in seventh place, quite an achievement for a team with such a small budget.
The 1995-96 version of Holon was promising as it contained young talent like Holtzman and Oren Zeitouni plus excellent defender Roman Patz, but the team never really delivered. Shai only managed six league goals and Holon finished 13th, just clear of relegation.
The following year was a great adventure for Holtzman. Former top team Hapoel Beersheva were given an unusually large budget under promising young coach Eli Gutman. Most of the money went to Siad Halilovich and Giovanni Russo for the midfield, but Holtzman was offered a good contract with the southerners. He ended up as the top scorer in the league with 11 goals, and he scored in the 5-2 State Cup semifinal win over B'nei Yehuda on the way to the title. Beersheva also came in third in the Israeli league.
Despite their success, Hapoel lost a lot of money and were forced to auction off the great team they had put together. Holtzman left for France with the obscure Ran team. He made little progress on the continent and was soon back in Israel with the powerful 1997-98 Betar Jerusalem team. He had to fight Nir Sevilia for a place in the lineup, but did score three important goals on the way to Betar's championship.
Shai found himself with Hapoel Haifa the following year but tried his hand at the European dream yet again with Austria Vienna. Though he played a few games and scored a few goals, he did not make much of an impression in Austria. Haifa went on to the title without him.
Shai returned to Maccabi Netanya for the 1999-2000 season, but did not get along with his disciplinarian coach Uri Malmilian. He was ousted and ended up finishing the season with Maccabi Petah Tikva. Holtzman formed a powerful partnership with Assi Tubi and scored seven goals for the club. Along with two Netanya goals, Shai scored nine overall in the season. Maccabi came in fourth and won the Toto Cup under the aegis of Yossi Mizrahi. Shai stayed on for another year at Maccabi, scoring eight goals as the team finished in eighth place.
The 2001-02 season was Shai's personal best to date. A transfer to Ironi Rishon-Le'Tzion brought out the best in him. He scored 17 goals and was the second highest scorer in the league. His predatory form single-handedly kept Rishon from relegation. In 2002-03, following a good start with Rishon, Holtzman was moved to S.C. Ashdod to cut costs.
Shai finished the 2002-03 season as the leading scorer in the Israeli Premier League with 18 goals. His unstoppable scoring form helped Ashdod climb the table to seventh place. When he joined them they were under the red line.
In international play, Holtzman came on as a late sub in the Israel vs. Cyprus Euro 2004 qualifying match. He scored a goal in overtime and helped Israel secure a 2-0 win over Cyprus. It was Holtzman's first goal in international competition.
Holtzman was sensational in 2003-04, as he led the Israeli Premier League in goals. He scored 16 goals in 33 appearances for S.C Ashdod while making three assists. In a very disappointing season for Ashdod, Shai was a ray of luminous light. His impressive scoring rate, will lead to further outings in the national team this year.
9 caps/ 1 goal