In Israel soccer rules. Basketball is big, baseball is growing, and football is loved by Americans who make Aliyah. But soccer is king. Meet Dekel Keinan, one of the premiere Israeli soccer players. Now playing in America, Dekel is very proud of his Israeli heritage and pays deep respect to his country and upbringing. He is bringing notoriety to Israeli soccer all the way in Sacramento (Hi Omri Casspi!). And proving once and for all that in Israel soccer still is atop the throne.
1) How did you get started with playing soccer?
I always remembered playing like all kids in Israel because I loved the game. I played with my family and friends. I always wanted to be best in my class and school. But I started because I loved the game. Then I joined the academy because I grew up on a kibbutz and then I joined Macabbi Haifa. I was never the guy that people thought would make it. I wasn’t quickest or strongest, but I worked harder than anyone else. Nothing stopped him from being a professional.
2) Israelis love soccer but have yet to burst onto the international scene. What can Israel do to get better at soccer as a country?
I think it all starts from the academy and the kids. Kids these days love their screens and technology. The association has to encourage them to play outside. Start even at an early age. More organization from the academies will result in long term success.
3) What is it like playing in the States? Have you enjoyed your time in Cincinnati and now in Sacramento?
I have really enjoyed it. It was completely different experience. Its not the #1 sport in America but I was amazed by fan base of Cincinnati; lots of people show up to the game. In America the professionalism makes it special and it has been great to do this with his family and show them the sports culture here.
4) Is your goal to continue playing for Maccabi Haifa or would you rather play around the world? Which club have you enjoyed playing for the most?
I realized that its difficult to make plans and you never know what will happen. I went back to Israel but wanted to come back to play in the States. Every club has its own style so its hard to say who is the best, but I enjoy it the most when we are winning.
5) I was just in Rosh HaNikra for the first time. Was it unique growing up there and if so do you go back and visit?
Of course its my home. I will live there one day. My family is still there. It taught me everything I know and gave me everything I have especially my values, community life and it is my home. It is a part of me.
6) Which do you prefer Hummus Ful, Hummus Basar or Hummus Shakshuka?
Definitely Hummus Basar. I need the protein.
7) What are your plans after soccer?
I love the game and its difficult to imagine life without it. I am in denial that it will ever be finished. But I know I do not have too many seasons left, but I will stay involved in the game coaching or at the Academy level.
8) Did you serve the IDF and which unit were you in?
I served three years in the Navy but because of soccer they took care of me. It was a sacrifice I made to play soccer so I didn’t do combat.