Written by: Or Ritter, MHFC.co.il
Maccabi Haifa got a big win yesterday (Sunday) a big win on Maccabi Tel Aviv that despite being both sweet and historic, also has big importance after the greens guaranteed the 3rd place almost finally, and the home advantage in the playoffs.
Or Ritter heard Ido Kozikaro, Moshe Mizrahi and the coach Avi Ashkenazi tell about the amazing experience last night, about the crowd that filled Romema and created an electrifying atmosphere, and of course about the upcoming playoff. A triple green interview, one day after one of Maccabi Haifa's biggest wins in the last years and ever.
Ido Kozikaro, what was it like to wake up in the morning after this huge win?
"(Laughs…) the truth is that didn’t really wake up in the morning, I didn’t sleep all night, and I was with my son. It was really amazing; it was fun to win and to see Romema full. We can only pray that it'll keep being like this, not only against Maccabi Tel Aviv".
It seemed that you were simply much more determined than they were
"Look, we knew it was a very important game for towards the playoff. We wanted to ensure the home advantage and I'm happy we lived up to that. We played outstandingly against one of the best teams in Europe, we played correctly and that’s what brought us the win".
As the captain, it seems that there is a perfect connection between you and the fans. How did that happen so fast?
"First of all I have to say that it's a big compliment for me. I think I'm a player that the crowd usually loves and appreciates. I always try to do my best, it doesn’t always work but I always try. I also know to appreciate the crowd and its support, especially in games like yesterday or like in the cup. Maccabi Haifa's crowd is the best in the country and all it needs is to prove it. Yesterday they did it, and we returned the favor, big time".
When you finished the game with five fouls, were you afraid you were going to lose the game?
"Not at all, actually during the game Avi Ashkenazi told me to sacrifice fouls and to send them to the line and that’s what I did. I tried to use my fouls wisely, I trusted all the guys to do the job right and that’s what happened".
The eyes on the playoff, Bnei Hasharon or Galil awaits you, not a simple task
"They are both very good teams, dangerous teams that already beat us this season. The entire league is very balanced; you always have to come focused in order to win. I really hope that we'll do it and make it to the final four, and see those 5000 green fans in the stance, and maybe this time we'll go one step further than last time".
Moshe Mizrahi, Ido says that he hadn’t slept all night. What was it like to get up in the morning after yesterday?
"Waking up in the morning? (laughs…). As usual, I drank my morning coffee; I took the dog out… same routine. I read the newspaper, saw the pictures from last night. The feelings are very good, I am very happy about the win for the fans, for all the people in the system, but eventually we have to stay in proportions, after all it's still only a league game. We are already looking forward to the playoff".
After beating Maccabi Tel Aviv, can you finally be named the 'Holon of last season'?
"I don’t think you can compare us, Holon won the championship last season and we are still far from it. The story might be similar, but the teams are completely different. We want to be Maccabi Haifa and not Hapoel Holon".
A word about the audience – there was an amazing atmosphere last night
"The crowd was really an experience, unbelievable. We were shocked, they didn’t stio singing and cheering for a moment. That shows you that if you want something enough, you can do it. The crowd was our 6th player last night, and I hope that these sorts of numbers will show up not only when Maccabi Tel Aviv arrives to Romema".
So yesterday you beat Maccabi Tel Aviv, and you've beaten Jerusalem in the cup, can you win the championship?
"First of all we have to make it to the final four. We have a difficult series waiting for us in the playoff. I personally don’t have a preference between Bnai Hasharon and Galil. They are both very difficult teams that already beat us this season".
Coach Avi Ashkenazi, what are the feelings after the win and the celebrations yesterday?
"Last night was amazing. It was an experience of once in a few years. The arena was packed, the audience pushed the team in the best way possible. The atmosphere was electrifying and added a lot to this excellent achievement".
It seemed that you were simply much more determined than they were, first to every ball. How do you explain that?
"I think that we are in an improvement period since the changes we've made. There is a positive spirit in the team, commitment by everybody, and there is also determination, and then you see beautiful basketball".
Without ruining the joy, or god forbid underestimate the achievement, do you think that if the game was a little more important to Maccabi Tel Aviv it would have ended the same way?
"Statistically, Maccabi Tel Aviv lost 3 times this season out of 21 games, so you can do the math alone if last night's achievement is amazing or not. I think we don’t have to deal with the others, what's important to them or not important, but focus on what's important for us. It was really a very big experience, the atmosphere reminded me the week with the semi final and final of the cup".
Devon Jefferson simply exploded yesterday
"No doubt about it, Devon exploded yesterday, but he wasn’t the only one that played well. Malik was excellent too in the second half, Moshe Mizrahi did an amazing job on defense, Ido Kozikaro and Doron Perkins were also amazing. Everyone did a great job and they all have a part in this win".
Towards the playoff, if you'll finish in 3rd place, which one do you prefer to get, Bnei Hasharon or Galil?
"I don’t think I have a preference. Anyone that we get will be a good team. The important thing is that we'll play our basketball. I'd like to use this opportunity and call the fans to show up in the playoff series too, that is not less important than yesterday's game. It is very important to us".