Eli Ohana

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Eli Ohana
Eli Ohana, 1991, taken by Moti Kikion.jpg
Ohana in 1991
Personal information
Full name Eliyahu Ohana
Date of birth (1964-02-01) February 1, 1964 (age 55)
Place of birth Jerusalem, Israel
Playing position Attacking midfielder
Second striker
Club information
Current team
Beitar Jerusalem (chairman)
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1980–1987 Beitar Jerusalem 172 (70)
1987–1990 KV Mechelen 52 (10)
1990–1991 S.C. Braga 25 (3)
1991–1999 Beitar Jerusalem 172 (82)
National team
1984–1997 Israel 50 (17)
Teams managed
1999–2000 Beitar Jerusalem
2000–2001 Bnei Yehuda Tel Aviv
2001 Maccabi Petah Tikva
2001–2003 Bnei Yehuda Tel Aviv
2003–2005 Beitar Jerusalem
2006–2008 Hapoel Kfar Saba
2008–2016 Israel U19
2010 Israel
* 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

Eliyahu "Eli" Ohana (Hebrew: אלי אוחנה‎; born February 1, 1964) is an Israeli former football player, and the current Chairman of Israeli club Beitar Jerusalem. He played as forward or midfielder, and was considered one of Israel's finest players.[1]


Eli Ohana was born in Jerusalem to a traditional Jewish family from the Wadi Salib ma'abara in Haifa. He has seven brothers and two sisters (one from his father's previous marriage). The family struggled with financial problems.[2]

At age eleven, Ohana joined the youth club of Beitar Jerusalem at the encouragement of his brother Yossi. His father, a traditional Jew, was initially opposed but allowed him to join on the condition that he attend synagogue before practice every Saturday.[2]

Although good on the field, Ohana had problems at school and Yossi advised him to choose between football and school. He chose football and went to live with Yossi, who had recently married.[2]

In 1982, Ohana's girlfriend, Sarit Shwartz, was in a fatal car accident. Sarit's death drove Ohana into depression and social seclusion.[2]In December 1991, he married model Ronit Ben Basat, with whom he had a son, Tom. They separated in 2004 without filing for divorce.

Sports career[edit]

In 1977, Ohana led the youth league team of Beitar Jerusalem to the state youth title. He stood out for his ability to find the back of the net and was 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),[2] and helped to bring the club its first league title and two State Cups.

At age 23, Ohana signed with KV Mechelen in Belgium. (The money 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 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 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.[2]

Despite his success in Europe, Ohana returned home to sign again with Beitar, which was then playing in the Liga Artzit (Nationwide League).[3] 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 any more that season. He played some games in 1998/99 but retired before the end of the season.

In the youth team of Beitar he played under number 9, in Mechelen under 10, in Beitar Jerusalem under 11.[2]

International career[edit]

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.[2]

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.[4]

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.[2]

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.

In 1996–97 Ohana had an excellent season (he was chosen player of the year at the end of it) and Shlomo Sharf returned him to the team, with Ohana again scoring often.[2]

Managerial career[edit]

His managerial career started during his last playing season, when he served 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 appointed 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.[5] That game started rumours Ohana would become the new head coach, but Ohana said in an interview his time was yet to come.[6]

Views and opinions[edit]

Some of his friends are well-known politicians of the centre-right Likud party (Benjamin Netanyahu, Reuven Rivlin[1]) and he attended the Bar Mitzva celebrations of the son of the Likud party leader in Jerusalem.[7]

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.[8] After three days of harsh criticism from party members who were displeased by Bennett's choice of an outsider who did not match the party's religious character, Ohana withdrew "after being asked to do so by minister Bennett".[9][10]

Awards and recognition[edit]

Ohana with Israeli president Reuven Rivlin


Beitar Jerusalem

KV Mechelen



  • Israeli coach of the year (1): 2007[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "ynet אלי אוחנה. אלוף התדמיות – חדשות ספורט". Ynet.co.il. June 20, 1995. Retrieved January 27, 2011.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "בית"ר.נט – אתר האוהדים של בית"ר י-ם – אלי אוחנה – "המלך"". Beitar-jerusalem.net. Retrieved January 27, 2011.
  3. ^ Until 1999, the Liga Artzit was the second tier of Israeli football.
  4. ^ "Jews in Sports profile – Eli Ohana". Jewsinsports.org. May 19, 2003. Archived from the original on March 3, 2016. Retrieved January 27, 2011.
  5. ^ "ynet אלי אוחנה: "עשינו עבודה הגנתית מושלמת" – חדשות ספורט". Ynet.co.il. June 20, 1995. Retrieved January 27, 2011.
  6. ^ "ynet אלי אוחנה: "לא הגיע זמני לאמן את הנבחרת" – חדשות ספורט". Ynet.co.il. June 20, 1995. Retrieved January 27, 2011.
  7. ^ "ynet הרב עובדיה בירך בסטירות את מועמדי הליכוד – חדשות היום". Ynet.co.il. June 20, 1995. Retrieved January 27, 2011.
  8. ^ http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-4619532,00.html
  9. ^ Chaim Levinson (29 January 2015). "Soccer star Eli Ohana quits Habayit Hayehudi, amid criticism". Haaretz. Retrieved 8 March 2015.
  10. ^ "Bennett Refuses to Let Kalfa Back onto Jewish Home List". Israel National News. 29 January 2015.
  11. ^ "Israel – Player of the Year". Rsssf.com. January 21, 2011. Retrieved January 27, 2011.
  12. ^ כדורגל וספורט (June 22, 2006). "Archived copy" 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. Archived from the original on July 16, 2011. Retrieved January 27, 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

External links[edit]