Eran Zahavi didn’t get his name on the scoresheet, but the 36-year-old captain on the night who led the team put with an Israeli flag draped around his shoulders, said at the end of the match: “This victory is dedicated to the entire Israeli nation”. Zahavi, who captained the Maccabi side that beat Zorya Luhansk 3-1 in the Conference League at the Lublin arena in Poland, added: “Obviously there were happier victories and circumstances which were a lot more normal in terms of our country. Overall, this victory was extremely important, especially as we were able to give a moment of joy for everyone who was watching us back home.”

On the various gestures the club and the players did for those who were murdered and killed on and since October 7th as well as the 240 kidnapped who are still held hostage in Gaza, Zahavi said: “Before walking on the pitch we decided to do something at the start of tne game, to point at the ribbon that said 240 kidnapped. We hope they will return home which was extremely important for us to get that message across. There are mixed emotions and the feelings are not simple, including playing at the same time that our country is in a state of war and experiencing difficult times. We had to come here and do a job – to show our mental strength, not to crumble under pressure and continue to do what we need to do. I just hope we managed to make people back home happy.”

On the meaning of playing football these days and ahead of the international break, Zahavi, who will return to the national team set-up after a one-year-absence, added: “We have been through a lot in the past month, we met with many people who were evacuated, kids, we tried to do good and cheer them up to the best of our ability. Clearly now the task ahead is the national team which is the most important thing. Maybe that will cheer our nation up, bring a little bit of joy and hopefully we could do it. It’s the task of our lives.”