July 1, 2018
Tel Aviv, Israel
I woke up at 8:00 in the morning, like every day. The first hour of each day, looks exactly the same as the one before—I drink two glasses of water, eat granola with a sliced apple and almond milk while reading Ha’aretz online, wash dishes, sit on the toilette while reading another, more sensational, online news site, force myself to do a short prison workout, shower, get dressed and go out to the streets of Tel-Aviv.
Since I didn’t have any meetings on my agenda, I did what I like doing most, and went to seat in a close bye Café. As part of my struggle not to allow my phone to dictate my routine, I checked my missed calls and WhatsApp messages only after I had left home. I wrote a few messages then I tried to move forward with the several frontiers I was operating on.
I just came back to Tel-Aviv after leaving in Berlin for almost two years, and in two weeks’ time I was about to start working as a football trainer of 15-year-old boys. Therefore, I was occupied in forming a yearly training plan, a challenge which involves reading a text of a famous Dutch Guru of football physiology, as I wanted to do it properly. To put his thesis in one sentence: you must train footballers exactly the opposite in comparison to how I was trained in my 15 years of being a professional footballer. Between one distraction and another, like talking to my friend Ori who stopped by to say hello with the cute baby she was nannying, I moved forward with the reading. My working efficacy is always poor when I work in a Café. I always work in a Café.
At 12:00 p.m. I left the place and walked six minutes to Benny’s place on Carlebach Street. He makes a great Kuskus—a North African dish which I like. Tel-Aviv is most definitely one of the best cities in the world when it comes to food, and particularly cheap but great quality street food. While seated, I observed the stream of people, sweating their way somewhere, a disproportional percentage of them carrying something heavy. It was July in Tel-Aviv. Thirty-five degrees is not the best temperature if you want to move things from one place to another, but here, it seemed like everyone was fulfilling a very important initiative. I finished eating, and on my way home, walked through a different Café to say hello to my eight months pregnant wife, May, who sat there with a friend of hers.
Half an hour later, I was already driving in the car I borrowed from my father, who lives with my mother in Jerusalem. I was on my way to a distant conference for youth trainers, a 30 minute drive away. I met many familiar people after two years of my being absent. I played with a few of them—like former Midfielder Ofir Kohen, who joined my youth club Hapoel Jerusalem at the twilight of his career. We played together for half a year—he was 32, I was 21. One day, he got into a dispute with our 82-year-old masseur, Yehuda, who refuse to treat him after Ofir talked to him in a disrespectful manner. As the dispute got worse, Yehuda threatened to curse Ofir, which caused all of the other players in the dressing room to jump on Yehuda and try to block his mouth from doing so, thereby acknowledging his magic powers. I looked at the situation, somewhat amused, from my chair. The sides haven’t reconciled. One week later, Ofir tore his knee’s cruciate ligament. He never played professional football again.
The conference started. Three presentations on the agenda. First speaker was Mr. Gilady, a functioner who made his way to the education division of the national association. He explained how a trainer should build a training plane despite the fact that he didn’t train even one day of his life. Next was Mr. Damari, an ex-goalkeeper who established his position in the FA due to his high work rate. He read the text appearing on the presentation, turning his back to us—a common technique of transferring knowledge in these circles. During his speech, the temperature in the room climbed because of a malfunction in the air condition. Ezra, the steward, took initiative, opening the big sliding door on the side of the room. Now it was much warmer due to the heat coming from the outside. Additionally, the sound of the 90s hits from the nearby Pool made it hard to hear Mr. Damari reading the text. We all sat there, sweating, struggling to hear something, not saying a word ’till the end of the day. One and a half hours later, I was already cursing on my bikes, on my way to train kids who signed up for the summer academy of my club.
Riding a bike in Tel-Aviv is a very good way to improve your awareness or develop hatred towards mankind. Transportation laws are conceived to be mere recommendations here, as people, especially other bikers and motorcycle drivers find creative roots to go from place to place faster, jeopardizing everyone else. I cursed another rider, who was riding against traffic straight towards me, and then I recalled how I used to ride with headphones in the streets of Berlin and felt completely safe. A minute later, I took a shortcut, ignoring the no entry sign in front of me.
I reached the training compound at 16:00 after a 30 minute ride, one hour and a half before training. I discussed the program of the day with my colleagues while drinking boiling hot Turkish coffee. We were all sweating. The training started at 17:30. We taught these 10- to 11-year-old kids how they should control the ball, how to position themselves in 1v1 situations, how to shoot and pass properly. In this age, it’s all about acquiring proper motoric skills and habits. At the end of the practice, we just let them play and be joyful.
After training, I rode back home. My wife and I fixed something quick to eat, vegan of course. Afterwards we went to the local pub to watch the World Cup game with our friend Nadav, an actor who feels sometimes too much at home, and was there every night, yelling at strangers who make stupid comments about the game. My wife was excited, and said she finally understands why people love football. I think that one of the reasons football is so popular is because of the Penalty shootout in those big tournaments. In what other sport you have a moment where one man, one shot, one ball touch will determine the mood of millions and decide whether he will be remembered as a hero or a persona non grata in your own land? This one moment Greek tragedy-like climax of personal drama combined with nationalism exists in no other sport.
After the Croats won, we went back home. I took a shower, went to bed, read a few pages of the fantastic biography of Hitler by Ian Kershaw, and fell asleep.
Rami Danon, Tel Aviv, Sports, Israel, Soccer