The collapse of the Soviet Union at the beginning of the 1990s opened the floodgates for many talented footballers to bring their outstanding skills and strict work ethic to Western clubs and quite a number ended up in Israel.
One of the most impressive players who came to Israel during a decade of global political upheaval was Aleksey Kosolapov. The Russian midfielder, born March 17, 1971, came to Maccabi in 1998. He was already acquainted with Israeli football and was one of the scorers in Russia’s 2-0 win over Israel in a World Cup qualifier.
Kosolapov had played eight times and scored one goal for his country and had amassed 170 matches and scored 42 goals for Lokomotiv Moscow. He had also played for Spanish outfit Sporting Gijon.
Kosolapov brought a quality that afforded Maccabi the opportunity to upgrade its attacking unit. It was a much-needed boost during a period when the club was struggling for success. He joined forces with other outstanding players such as Andrzej Kubica and Michael Emenalo.
After the disappointments of the mid-1990s, the midfielder and his colleagues led Maccabi to a relatively successful season in 1998-99 when they displayed some good football that earned them a second-place finish behind champions Hapoel Haifa and to the Toto Cup with a 2-1 extra time win in the final over Beitar Jerusalem.
Kosolapov contributed 10 goals as a central midfielder in 34 appearances. He continued for another season with the club, although 1999-2000 was not one of Maccabi’s best and they ended the season in sixth place in the standings. Kosolapov made 41 appearances for the club but only scored two goals that season and at the end of it he returned to Lokomotiv Moscow and eventually wound up his career in the middle of the first decade of this century with Astana and Aktobe in Kazakhstan.
Even though Maccabi’s 1999-2000 season was disappointing, one of the most memorable moments was Kosolapov’s goal in the Derby in the 23rd round of the league when Maccabi hosted Hapoel at Ramat Gan Stadium. Hapoel were far better placed to bid for the league title, but that didn’t stop Kosolapov from scoring a memorable late headed goal on the way to a famous 2-0 win.