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Tal Banin

(1971 - )

Tal Banin, an incredibly hard-working midfielder, provides much-needed grit to the Israeli National soccer team's lineup. The captain of Israel since 1997, and a highly respected player in Europe, he has been unable to fulfill his potential due to a crippling knee injury. During the 2002-03 Israel League season, Banin helped lead Maccabi Tel Aviv to their first championship since 1996.

A member of Maccabi Haifa, at the age of 20, Banin became the second youngest Israeli player to win "Player of the Year" honors in 1991. That same season, 1990-91, Maccabi Haifa won the Israel League and Israel Cup "double." Banin then spent a season in the French top division at Cannes, and the team finished sixth, achieving European qualification. Unfortunately, that same year Banin began to suffer from a chronic knee problem that would plague the rest of his career. Despite an offer to extend his contract in France, Banin returned to Israel and joined Hapoel Haifa, where he played very well.

His hard work was rewarded with a move to Serie A, the Italian top league and then-undisputed best league in the world, at Brescia in 1997. Banin then aggravated his knee injury and watched helplessly as Brescia was relegated to Serie B.

At the insistence of his wife, Banin returned home to play for Maccabi Tel Aviv. He became the backbone of Tel Aviv's capable midfield unit and oversaw their return to contention. He then led them to the 2001-02 State Cup.

In the 2002-03 campaign, with the help of Banin's versatility, Tel Aviv won its first title since 1996, in which Banin scored two goals. In the 2003-04 pre-season, Maccabi Tel Aviv was knocked out of the Champions League in the first round, and was overcome by infighting. On August 13, 2003, Banin and his rival for team leadership, Avi Nimni were thrown off the team by coach Nir Klinger. Banin played for B'nei Yehuda for the remainder of the season.

Source: Jews in Sports