Soccer-Maccabi Haifa appoint Benado as coach

JERUSALEM Sun Nov 25, 2012 8:06pm GMT

JERUSALEM Nov 25 (Reuters) - Israeli Premier League club Maccabi Haifa appointed their former central defender Arik Benado as coach for the remainder of the season on Sunday.

Benado, who retired as a player two seasons ago, has coached Haifa's youth team since the start of the current campaign and is a hasty replacement for Reuven Atar, who was sacked earlier this month following a very poor start.

"Arik is the natural choice to take over as coach," club owner Yaakov Shahar told Haifa's website (maccabi.haifafc.walla.co.il)

Haifa had hoped to hire Ran Ben Shimon, who led Hapoel Kiryat Shmona to their inaugural league title last season but Shahar said he could not agree a release fee with Ben Shimon's current club, AEK Larnaca of Cyprus.

Benado, who turns 39 next week, has very limited coaching experience but is the most capped Israel international with 94 appearances. He spent most of his playing days with Haifa and turned out for them in 399 league matches.

Haifa have had one of their worst starts to a season and lie 12th in the 14-team division with just one win from 10 games, a stark difference to the past three decades during which they have been one of Israel's most dominant sides.

All Haifa's 12 league titles have come since 1984 and they have also been one of Israel's best teams in European competition but they missed out last season after finishing fifth.

Atar, 43, a huge crowd favourite, was appointed towards the end of last season when it became clear his predecessor, Elisha Levy, would not continue for a fifth campaign, but the straggly-haired coach failed badly and was sacked after nine matches. (Editing by Sonia Oxley)