Between meetings, handing over material and preparing for his new position with the Youth National Teams, Nir Levin spoke to the Official Website as he looked back on his eight years with Maccabi Tel Aviv’s Youth Department. Just before beginning the interview, Levin continues to sign off and approve registration forms of children who will be part of the Yellow & Blue Youth Department this coming season.

ניר לוין

As the conversation begins, we go right to the 2007/08 campaign when Levin began his second spell with the Club: “In September of 2007, I replaced Eli Cohen in the middle of the season and at the end of the year I was offered to take over the Club’s Youth Department. At that point in time I had to recalculate my own direction just like WAZE. It was a career changing decision as I had to decide if I wanted to work with youngsters which is very different than regular training sessions and also combines various management aspects or to continue my career with professionals and Senior Teams.

My thoughts wandered in all directions but right from the get go I leaned towards accepting the challenge. I saw where Maccabi Tel Aviv was headed with ownership, management, professionalism and I wanted to be a part of it. Something about teaching and training was always ingrained in me when I was working with the pros. I always enjoyed going into further explanations and details and younger players always seemed to take a lot out of this aspect. In many of the clubs that I worked in, I knew that investing in the youngsters was the way to go and I really believe in the process. So I made the choice to change gears and work with youth and to this day, I don’t regret this decision. I have received many offers from quality teams in Ligat Ha’Al to join them but it never interested me. This role suits me. I was given the independence, influence and the tools to succeed. I have enjoyed every single day that I have been here.”

The last Israeli coach:

During the time that he was the Youth Department Director, Levin was called upon by owner Mitch Goldhar to take over the Senior side in the middle of the season to replace Motti Ivanir. In fact, Levin was the last Israeli coach to stand on the sidelines for the Yellow & Blue: “I met Jordi when he first arrived and I explained to him what had been happening at the Club over the last few years. He had to digest what was going on very quickly and it was a very stressful time for me. I trained the First Team in the morning and when I finished with them, I worked with the youth in the afternoon. It was a very intense period and I was at Maccabi 24/7. It was a challenging and very interesting and I also was able to make an impact with the Senior squad that really was able to bear fruits for the team. One of the most important things I did was to sit down and speak with Gal Alberman who hadn’t been in the squad and get him back to playing on a regular basis.”

ניר לוין

Jordi’s arrival also raised the level of professional and Club demands increased which affected the Youth Department immediately. The connection between the two was natural explained Levin: “The minute you raise the bar for the First Team you also raise the bar for the Youth. The goal of the department is to create a simulation that is as close as possible to that of the professionals. That’s why we sent the Under-19 Club to play against teams like Real Madrid and Dinamo Zagreb. These tournaments are equivalent to a half a year in the Youth League. The style we teach in the Youth Department at all ages is similar to that of the First Team which is to be a dominating and quality side that plays possession football while attacking be it in a 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 formation.”

From adolescence to adulthood:

One often hears complaints about the difficulties of integrating the youth players with the Senior squad. Levin has seen hundreds of players make the move from the youth sides to the First Teams over the past eight years and each one is a totally different story: “Having a youth player move up to the Seniors depends on several factors. The first factor is how much is needed in terms of the role. We’re trying to develop players and prepare them to be able to train with the pros. Eliel Peretz is a perfect example. He was a player who caught the coach’s eye and there were injuries on the Senior side. As soon as he arrived he played right away and he also played during crucial points of the season. This is just one player who was able to handle the training and some luck (he came back from an injury with Beitar Tel Aviv/Ramle and trained with the Youth team) so when he had his chance to play with the First Team he took the opportunity with two hands and today he is also part of the Youth National Team.”

The issue of many so called “experts” who intervene in the career of a young player like parents who want their children to play more which may lead them leaving the Youth Department, Levin has a few words for them as well: “You don’t always have to give an answer to the parents, as they sometimes are the trouble makers. You have to understand that with children and youth, the player has to be in a place that they can advance in a professional manner and are not looking three steps ahead at the professionals. There’s always a lot of background noise either from parents or agents. But the minute you do your work in a professional manner, there are results. When you walked in to do this interview, did you see that I was signing off players paper’s? There are plenty of players here that were ours and then they left because they received a great offer from somewhere else. But now they are coming back to us as they know that the training we provide is at the highest level and they are returning for lower offers than what they had originally left on the table.”


Looking at Eliel and Dor Peretz as well as Dor Micha, Levin knows that there is an issue of players jumping from the youth levels upwards due to the methodology: “The methodology here is incorrect. I along wth Ariel Avraham who recently departed from Maccabi, worked for two years on trying to find a solution to better aid the youngsters who were moving up to the ranks of the Senior Team. We discussed extending the age limit of the Under-19 side for two more years and adding a couple of years to the Under-17’s. We also talked about a reserve league and an Under-21 competition just like they have around Europe. We received some support for these ideas but at the end of the day nothing happened. Why? Because of politics with some of the owners and others. This is a very big problem that we have yet to find a solution for. Another option is to have a second team but this is not a possibility due to the Israel Football Association’s regulations. However, we did create a relationship with Beitar Tel Aviv/Ramle which is a great option for the players, but we really need to find an answer to this issue. At the moment we’ve done nothing to fix this problem.”

Saying goodbye to Kiryat Shalom:

Levin officially will leave his position as Maccabi Tel Aviv’s Youth Department Director on July 1st to begin his new role at the Israel FA. It’s not easy to pick out the best moments over his many years with the Club, but Levin spoke about what he enjoyed most: “Titles aren’t the most important part of the Youth Department, however it is enjoyable to look back at Amir Turgeman’s Double, last year’s club coached by Ziv Arie and of course participating in the Champions League this year. The Class of 1992 which featured the likes of Monas Dabbur, Dor Micha, Roie Kehat, Moshiko Lugassi, Barak Levy and others were part of this amazing group of players who reached some of the highest levels. To see Dor Micha turn into a regular day in day out player, Eliel and Dor Peretz who have become part of the Senior Team and Haviv Ohayon who at just 17 years of age took part on a Toto Cup match along with Mavis Tchibota getting significant minutes is outstanding. Watching this players who grew up at Maccabi play in the top league gives me a ton of satisfaction.”


Despite the achievements and titles, Levin acknowledges that there is still a long way to go in the department: “There’s still plenty of work to do and improvements have to be made in many aspects. It begins with the facility, equipment, academy, identifying players and bringing them into the system, there’s a lot to do. We did a tremendous amount but there is still much progress to be done. The minute you don’t stay with the times, you will move backwards because everyone else is trying to move forward.”

How would you sum up this amazing period in your life?

“I am finishing up a lifetime of work and I am leaving behind a terrific staff that I brought to Maccabi. I see the people I work with here more than I see my own wife. In my next role I will still see many of the coaches and players that I worked with but this is still a significant moment. I have to recognize all of the people that I have worked with from management to the coaches. especially to the professional staff and the coaches, Ariel Avram, with whom I worked with for many years, Guy Zuckerman who came on board this year, Ziv Arie who besides being a coach was also the assistant director and the rest off the staff.

I’m now preparing for my new job and I can’t wait to start. Most likely I’ll be back here as part of this new position and I hope that Dubi Talit will let me in and not block the entrance when I arrive.”