Ohana in 1991
|Full name||Eliyahu Ohana|
|Date of birth||February 1, 1964|
|Place of birth||Jerusalem, Israel|
|Playing position||Attacking midfielder
|2000–2001||Bnei Yehuda Tel Aviv|
|2001||Maccabi Petah Tikva|
|2001–2003||Bnei Yehuda Tel Aviv|
|2006–2008||Hapoel Kfar Saba|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of July 9, 2006.
‡ National team caps and goals correct as of March 21, 2010
Eli Ohana (Hebrew: אלי אוחנה; born February 1, 1964 in Jerusalem, Israel) is the manager of the Israel U19 team. He is a former Israeli football player. He is considered to be one of the greatest Israeli players ever.
Early life and playing career
Ohana was born in Jerusalem to a traditional Jewish family who had moved to Jerusalem from the Wadi Salib ma'abara in Haifa. He has 7 brothers and two sisters (one from his father's previous marriage). The family struggled with financial problems.
At age eleven, Ohana joined the youth system of Beitar Jerusalem at the encouragement of his brother Yossi. His father, a traditional Jew, was initially opposed but allowed him to join with the condition he would visit a synagogue before practice every Saturday.
Although good on the field, Ohana had problems at school and Yossi advised him to choose between football and school. He chose football, despite his father's resistance, and went to live with Yossi, who had recently married.
In 1977, Ohana led the youth league team of Beitar Jerusalem to the state youth title.
Ohana stood out for his ability to find the back of the net and was quickly promoted to first team. Beitar played in the second league (Artzit) at the time. Although Ohana did not do well in his first matches, he and Uri Malmilian later pushed the club into the first league (Leumit), and helped to bring the club its first league title and two State Cups.
At age twenty-three, Ohana signed with KV Mechelen in Belgium. (The money Beitar gained from the Ohana sale paid for the Bayit VeGan pitches used since then for the team practice.) After one season, Ohana was instrumental in the club's winning the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup. His goal in the semi-final and his assist on the game-winning goal in the final secured his place in Mechelen's history books. Italian magazine Guerin' Sportivo awarded Ohana with the Bravo Award, which is given to the best player under 23 in European competition. Ohana also took part in the testimonial match to Oleg Blokhin.
Despite his success in Europe, Ohana returned home to sign again with Beitar, which was then playing in the Liga Artzit (Nationwide League). After one season, Ohana helped them return to the Liga Leumit (National League) and then guided the club to a league title. Five years later, Ohana led the club to back-to-back league titles. After an injury in the 7th game of the 1997/98 season, Ohana did not play anymore of that season. He played some games in the 1998/99 season, and then he retired from play before the end of that season.
Ohana was first invited to coach the Israel national football team in 1983. After a friendly match in which Israel lost to Argentina 7–2, Diego Maradona said there is one great player in Israel, Eli Ohana.
Ohana secured himself a place in Israeli football history when the national team was in a crucial FIFA World Cup qualifier against Australia in 1989. Australia manager Frank Arok apparently had made antisemitic comments before the game. During the match, Ohana dribbled through two defenders and fooled the keeper, giving Israel a 1–0 lead. Ohana then ran up to the Australian manager and kissed the star of David in front him.
In 1990 Ohana was called to the squad for a game against the Soviet Union national football team. Minutes before the game began, Ohana and the two other legionnaires of the Israeli team, Ronny Rosenthal and Shalom Tikva, realized that their insurance had not been arranged as promised, and they refused to go onto the pitch. All the players were punished, with Ohana receiving the worst punishment, banned from 10 league games and banned for four years from the national team.
In 1995/1996 Ohana had a weak season and decided to quit international football. The Uruguay national football team was invited to Israel for his testimonial match, which Israel won 3–1 with Ohana scoring the first goal.
His managerial career started during his last playing season, when he acted as an assistant to Dror Kashtan. After retiring, he was promoted to manager, replacing Kashtan. After leading his childhood club to a sixth place league finish and cup final, he left for Bnei Yehuda Tel Aviv but resigned after they were relegated to the Liga Leumit. After seven matches in charge of Maccabi Petah Tikva in 2001, he was fired and rejoined Bnei Yehuda, the club he had led to relegation the year before. This time he was able to guide them to a return to the Israeli Premier League.
The next season, he was able to keep the team from being relegated again. Calls came from fans of Beitar Jerusalem to bring Ohana back; he returned before the 2003-2004 season and stayed for three seasons. He stepped down as manager when the club was sold to Arcadi Gaydamak. He returned to management with Hapoel Kfar Saba and saved them from relegation, for which he earned Coach of the Year.
At the end of 2007-08 Israeli Premier League Ohana was relegated with Hapoel Kfar Saba to Liga Leumit despite their having won the last game of the season.
On June 18, 2008 Ohana was selected to be manager for Israel U19.
In 2010, Dror Kashtan, the coach of the Israel national football team quit from his position, and Ohana was made the caretaker. With Ohana on the lines, Israel beat Romania 2–0 in a friendly match. That game started rumours Ohana would become the new head coach, but Ohana said in an interview his time was yet to come.
In 1982, Ohana's girlfriend, Sarit Shwartz, was in a fatal car accident. While spending most of his time with her at the hospital, his play suffered, leading some to believe his career was over. Sarit's death drove Ohana into depression and social seclusion. He enjoyed emotional support from his Yossi and Beitar's owner, Moshe Dadash.
Ohana is private and protective of his family and personal life. When a reporter wrote that Ohana's father fought with someone who insulted Eli, Ohana reportedly responded: "I don't care about the crap you write about me, but leave my family alone".
In December 1991, Ohana married model Ronit Ben Basat, with whom he had a son, Tom. In 2004, Ohana and Ronit Be Basat separated without filing for divorce.
Some of his friends are well-known politicians of the centre-right Likud party (Benjamin Netanyahu, Reuven Rivlin) and he has attended the Bar Mitzva celebrations of the son of the Likud party leader in Jerusalem.
Ahead of the 2015 elections, Naftali Bennett, the head the right wing religious Zionist Jewish Home party, placed Ohana on position number ten of his party's election list. After just three days of harsh criticism from party members, who were displeased by Bennett's choice of an outsider who also did not match the party's religious character, Ohana withdrew "after being asked to do so by minister Bennett".
- Israeli championship (4): 1986–87, 1992–93, 1996–97, 1997–98
- Israel State Cup (2): 1984–85, 1985–86
- Toto Cup Top Division (1): 1997–98
- Israel Super Cup (1): 1986
- Bravo Award (1): 1988
- Israeli Footballer of the Year (2): Israeli player of the Year: 1984, 1997
- Member of the Israeli Football Hall of Fame
- Israeli coach of the year (1): 2007
- In the youth team of Beitar he played under number 9, in Mechelen under 10, in Beitar Jerusalem under 11.
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- Until 1999, the Liga Artzit was the second tier of Israeli football.
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- Chaim Levinson (29 January 2015). "Soccer star Eli Ohana quits Habayit Hayehudi, amid criticism". Haaretz. Retrieved 8 March 2015.
- "Bennett Refuses to Let Kalfa Back onto Jewish Home List". Israel National News. 29 January 2015.
- "Israel – Player of the Year". Rsssf.com. January 21, 2011. Retrieved January 27, 2011.
- כדורגל וספורט (June 22, 2006). "אלי אוחנה / שחקני כדורגל בארץ / כדורגל ישראלי – יש כדורגל בארץ, שחקנים ישראלים מצליחים באירופה, איצטדיונים ברמה עולמית / מאמנים מהארץ – מאמני כדורגל ישראלים – מאמן – ספורט – כדורגל וגם כדורסל, לא נשכח טניס, מרוצי מכוניות, ספורטאים בכירים, אתלטיקה קלה, כוכבי ספורט, ליגת האלופות, מונדיאל, גביעים ביניבשתיים, אולימפיאדה ועוד". Soccer-and-sports.com. Retrieved January 27, 2011.