The last season started in a difficult way for midfielder Maor Levy. The one who was the captain of the youth team of Maccabi Haifa and a regular rotation player for the greens in the first two championships, found himself pushed to a corner in the first half of the season, when the minutes of the game decreased significantly.
The one who was marked as one of the outstanding talents in the youth department, realized that he needed to change phase, go and accumulate minutes and went down to the national team, to play for the one who was his coach in the youth team, Benny Lem, a decision that definitely proved itself. The 22-year-old Levy scored only one goal, but became one of the most important players in the lineup of the Malabasim in the second half of the season, which ended in qualifying back to the Premier League.
For next season, Levy still holds a contract with the champion on the way, but it seems that in light of the current state of affairs, he may not play next season in the parent team, when the estimates are that he will continue for another season in the blue uniform, his debut season in the Premier League in a team that is not Maccabi Haifa.
Now, in a special interview with ONE, he sums up the difficult season that has passed: the decision to go out on loan, the connection with Bnei Lam, why he was not able to integrate into Maccabi Haifa this season, the devaluation of his status in Guy Luzon’s youth team and the next season as well.
Take me back to the month of January when you see that you are not playing… what was going through your mind?
“I had several other offers besides Maccabi Petah Tikva, but offers to reach teams where I wasn’t sure I would get minutes or alternatively that wanted a purchase option, such as Netanya and Ashdod, which could not happen because Maccabi Haifa did not want to loan me with a purchase option. My son (Lem, coach of Maccabi Petah Tikva) put a lot of pressure on me and showed me that he wanted me, so I preferred to go to a place where I was sure I would play, a place that wanted me. If not for my son, I don’t think I would have gone to the national league.”
Tell us about the connection between you.
“From my first day with him in the youth team, he took me into his room and told me that he wanted me to be his captain and his coach on the field and to help him in the dressing room. From the youth we have a good relationship – we talk in training and consult.”
Was there pressure before you signed? After the first half of the season, did you want to prove that you could be a central player?
“It’s something I’ve been waiting for, to be a leading player in the team and prove to many people that I can play regularly, be good and lead to achievements. There was a bit of pressure, because I arrived after six months a little less well personally. It was a new place for me and I never left Maccabi Haifa, so I didn’t know how I would be accepted. I got there and from the first training I met amazing people who helped me integrate in the best possible way. My son gave me the smoothest possible landing and I’m happy that it worked out. The pressure decreased as I connected.”
What did you manage to bring to light in this half season that you didn’t manage to do before?
“I think that first of all, as soon as I got the playing minutes, I showed what I was worth on the field and beyond football, I brought leadership and connection with the players. My confidence returned. The first half of the season lowered my confidence in a really significant way and the playing minutes restored my confidence.”
Were there moments you thought you wouldn’t make it?
“I always believed we would go up. There was the game against Kfar Qasim in which we drew 0:0 in which the team looked a little less good and I had a hard day after the game. But since then everything came together and exploded in an amazing way. We went on a streak of five or six victories.”
What is Maccabi’s secret?
“In my opinion, everything starts and ends with Abby Luzon. His love for this club, his investment and his sacrifice. He comes to every training session, talks to the players, asks them questions and is interested. This atmosphere there helps young players develop in the best possible way.”
You talked earlier about insecurity. What did you go through in the first half of the season? After all, you became a regular player at Maccabi Haifa and suddenly you disappear…
“I think that in the first two seasons and especially last season, every time I would come in and get the opportunity, I would take it and everything went the way I wanted. Of course not in all the games, but in most of the games I was able to do the things I know how to do and give output in the minutes I got. In this half of the season , it went a little less well for me and in the minutes I got I wasn’t good enough in my opinion. I know I am capable of showing better ability. Of course there are factors that can be said to be mitigating factors, but I still expected to show better ability and when that didn’t happen, my confidence dropped.”
“There were all kinds of incidents that significantly lowered my confidence: whether it was the penalty in Herra or the boos I received after the match in Reina. I had to move to another place or to a different atmosphere in order to free myself. In January I felt that I could not stay and I think that from their side as well, they They preferred that I go play.”
You said there were mitigating factors… elaborate.
“I think I could have maybe gotten a little more minutes and they could have tried to keep me in the rotation regularly. But these are coach’s decisions and I have nothing to do with it except to adapt to the situation. Maybe I should have spent the minutes I got more and then I would have gotten more minutes, but it’s just not It worked out and I felt that everything was going the other way for me, just everything.”
“In the match against Raina, I saw that I was being cursed by the crowd and it hurt me a lot because I know we have the best crowd in Israel. I love this crowd very much, I know it’s a handful, but it lowered my confidence and it was not pleasant. In the end, I felt that they didn’t believe in me Enough within the team. I understand the situation because it’s not easy: there’s the Champions League, it’s the best team in Israel with the best players in Israel and it’s not easy to get minutes here.”
How stressful is it for a young player to be in Maccabi Haifa?
“It’s very stressful, because in every game and training session they demand of you. You get the best conditions there are, but on the other hand it’s the place with the greatest pressure a player can feel. It’s being in a top team fighting for the championship, especially if you’re a young player and you don’t know if you’ll get minutes and how many you will get. You are trying to build a status in the team and it is tough, not easy at all.”
How upset were you that you didn’t play in the Champions League?
“Listen, you already come with the team and go up to the Champions League together with them and you want to taste it. It sucks, I won’t say no, but again: I understood the situation, you play with the best players and also those who played all the time, didn’t want to give up A minute. In the end, Barak (Bacher) wanted to play with the strongest lineup to get the best results. I won’t say I wasn’t disappointed, I wanted to play even for a few minutes, but I respect the coach’s choice.”
Did they talk to you when you left?
“Yes, the players and the team spoke to me and told me good luck, in fact almost all of them. There was no special message, but I knew that I needed to get minutes and change the atmosphere so that, with God’s help, I would prove myself elsewhere because the dream in the future is to be a leading player in Maccabi Haifa. I probably should get minutes somewhere else because I couldn’t do it at the club.”
Can you still be a top player in Maccabi Haifa?
“Yes. I will always believe in myself that I can be at the highest levels.”
Did they talk to you about the intentions to continue? Where should you play next season?
“The truth is no, I still don’t know what will happen next season. I haven’t been in the Premier League in a team other than Maccabi Haifa, but I want to continue my progress. If Maccabi Haifa can let me continue this progress and get significant minutes next season, then that’s fine Done. But if not, I want to stay in a place that gives me the space to express myself and continue my progress.”
“I can’t go back after playing continuously for half a season. I can’t get five minutes here and five minutes there again. I want to be a significant player in a team that ran in the Premier League, that’s my goal. I think I’m ripe to be a team player in the Premier League, I will always believe in myself. Believing in yourself is one of the keys to success.”
How hard is it to do it in Maccabi Haifa?
“Listen, this is the biggest club in Israel in my opinion: with the best team, the best management and the best players. You have to be at your peak to stand out in a team like this. It’s a bit difficult for a young player because he is usually characterized by instability and doesn’t always show it the ability That’s also why you don’t see many young players in such teams who stand out, with the exception of Oskar Gloch who recently stood out and is an extraordinary player.”
This season also hurt you in the youth team. You started as a leading actor with Alon Hazan and with Guy Luzon you don’t really count…
“Alon really believed in me even when I would get less minutes or I wouldn’t play for Maccabi Haifa. He would always invite me to the team and give me minutes and I think that in the minutes I played I proved myself in the games against Germany and Poland, at the highest levels there is. It’s a lot thanks to Alon who didn’t give up on me Even when I played less. Then Guy came and in the last two games in the group stage he invited me against Latvia and San Marino, but I played less in the team at that time and that’s why, in my opinion, I didn’t later receive the invitation to the playoff stage. I of course believe that I can be in the tournament and believe in myself that I’m part of the team, But these are coach’s decisions and I accept everything that one coach or another decides.”
Did you talk to Guy?
“No. I have nothing to ask for clarifications. If a coach thinks I’m not suitable, I won’t go and ask him why.”
This half of the season should bring you back to the national team?
“According to what I have understood so far, I will not be part of the squad for the Euros and it is quite closed. I do believe that I can be there and if I am called I will show up and give my best.”