Tal Banin is the first Israeli footballer to play in the Italian Serie A, between 1997 and 2000. He was defensive midfielder at Brescia Calcio, where fans remember him with affection.
Now Tal lives in Tel Aviv and he is still fluent in Italian, also because he has kept in contact with Italian friends and former teammates in Brescia. MondoFutbol, the passion for football in every corner of the world gets in touch with Banin. We asked him, who played 80 times for Israeli football national team, about “The Blue and Whites “ next Italy opponent in World Cup qualifying campaign. Furthermore we talked with Banin about Israeli football movement, whose representatives Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Be’er Sheva will play in Europa League in 2016-2017 season.
Welcome Tal, what do you think about the match Israel-Italy?
Of course Azzurri are favourite, even if that’s the first match in the group stage and there are some peculiar dynamics, but Italian players have really more physical and mental skills.
Why do you underline these two aspects: physical and mental strength?
I’ve mentioned these aspects because playing in Europe and in Italy I understood that we lacked them. When I came back to Israel after my Italian experience, where I became a complete footballer, I insisted on these points. Working in the gym, paying attention to nutrition and controlling carefully player’s body. Here we have to improve but we need to invest on it. Nowadays, our most important club, Maccabi Tel Aviv, led by director of football Jordi Cruyff, has insisted on this change of mentality. He has built a team where many details, which before had been underrated, have become important. Maccabi Tel Aviv have invested a lot of money, thanks to their Canadian owners, they brought to Israel good manager as current Fiorentina coach Paulo Sousa and especially they’re creating a model. That’s important for Israel football movement, as a whole. For example Hapoel Be’er Sheva want to work in the same way as Maccabi (even if they haven’t so much money) but that’s a limited problem, they’ve already achieved some goals. Investing on these little details, which concern physical and mental preparation, and assembling a solid club structure are the key of the growth.
So we can say that your advice to reform Israeli football has been accepted or times have changed?
Carlo, we can say that too often this wonderful game has got in the wrong hands. There are too many people who talk and act without any knowledge. There are unreasonable and pointless controversies, which slowed down the general development, because when there are debates you work with more difficulties. In addition to difficult relationship with media, you have also to consider the increasing power of players’ agents. Everything limit players and coaches’ authority, who are main characters in football. It’s not easy. In youth academies we should give more support to coaches, we have to demand to everyone professionalism and a great desire to help young talents, in every aspect (technical, physical and moral) of their growth. Stop watching only results, if we want to raise well our guys. As the time goes by, we could achieve goals. Of course if we’ll work with attention and patience.
Have a look again to Israel national team and their match against Italy. Mondofutbol is a fan of Maccabi player Tal Ben Haim. We hope that he could play in a good team of top European leagues. What do you think about him? Which players do you think could be “dangerous” for Italy?
Also in my opinion Tal Ben Haim could play in Europe and do something good. He has a good technique, he is quick. Training and playing in European clubs (for example in Spain and Italy) Tal could improve even more his choices in the game, his ability to “read” the match. For him it could be an interesting challenge. As regards other players, in Italy you know quite well Eran Zahavi who played for Palermo, came back to Israel scoring a lot of goals and now is in China (keep on scoring). As forwards we have good players as Dabour and Tomer Hemed.
In the same group of Spain and Italy, Israel have so few chances to qualify for the next World Cup, isn’t it?
Of course, but that could be something good. I mean. Media pressure often has damaged our national team. Journalists and football pundits demand much, too much to Israel in relation to their real skills. Now, we start comforted, because it’s evident that Spain and Italy are better than us. With so few responsabilities maybe we could do better. We could play with more calm and it could be an advantage. Let’s see if we can use it.
Will you be soon in Italy?
Israel is my homeland, but Italy is my second home. I always come back gladly. A short time ago I came to Brescia to visit with my former team-mate Dario Hübner our president Gino Corioni, before he died. I fell in love with Italy due to football, when I watched on TV 1982 World Cup final. Tardelli‘s scream is a unforgettable memory. It touches me even now. Since that day I support Italy in every competition. Also for this reason playing in Italy has been even wonderful. Now I’m thinking of my future. At the beginning I wanted to be a senior squad manager, but I found out that it’s even more difficult to be involved in professional and long-range projects, where you can plan and create something. So I think to devote myself to coach young players, working in football academies. I was part of a beloved generation by Israeli fans, also because we were international footballers with experience in Europe. Haim Revivo played at Celta and Fenerbahçe, Eyal Berkovic at Man City and in other Premier League clubs . Before my move to Italy I was alongside Patrick Vieira at Cannes led by manager Luis Fernandez. Also for these reasons, for the respect and recognisability, we gained, we could teach them virtues and knowledge. I have already worked with Israeli youth national teams. I know what I can give.