- Gabriel Burstein took the helm of the Israel national women’s team in July
- The man from Argentina is looking to the long term
- "My aim is to further the development of women’s football in Israel"
Unlike the men’s national team which took part in the FIFA World Cup™ in Mexico back in 1970, Israel’s women’s team have yet to qualify for a FIFA Women’s World Cup™, or indeed to the final phase of a European championship. There are plenty of reasons for this lack of success however, not least the fact that after making their international debut in 1977, the women’s team did not play another match for another two decades…
Gabriel Burstein, who took over as national team coach in July this year, is well aware of these circumstances. "Germany for example have put in over 3,000 hours more training than we have. That one heck of a lot," he said to FIFA.com.
"I came to Israel 25 years ago and started to coach women’s teams 10 years ago. I love helping the girls to improve the way they play. My aim is to further the development of women’s football in Israel. When you're offered the opportunity to coach the national team, you have to make the most of it. I’m working very hard, and the women’s team is the most important thing for me."
The Argentinian knows that good results cannot be expected overnight and that the priority has to be promoting women’s football in Israel over the long term. What makes things even more difficult is that the history and politics of the state are determined by the Middle East conflict.
"First and foremost, the girls have to understand that football isn’t just for boys," Burstein explained. "My goal is to provide the very young girls with someone they can look up to and think: 'I want to be like her'. And to get to that point, we need to produce some good results and get projects going.
"I know that it's tough for every country that finds itself involved in a conflict. I have to get girls aged 10 or 11 to understand that they can play football and that they can have a future in the game. The more girls I can win over to football, the greater the chances of having a better national team."
As the 43-year-old points out, a solid foundation is absolutely crucial, with one of the necessary aspects being that girls should start playing football when they are in school – a project that is set to be implemented in every school in Israel next year. "We have to start somewhere," he said.
Burstein’s first match as coach of the national team will be on 29 August in qualifying for the UEFA Women’s EURO 2021. Their opponents that day will be Italy, who made it all the way to the quarter-finals of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019.
"At the moment, I’m focusing on my project with the national association. It’s a long-term, not a short-term project. You can’t train to be a doctor in two years, can you? If we carry on as we have started, we can get to a very good level in less than ten years, because we have the right potential. Qualifying for the EURO? Impossible. But I have to instil the belief in the team that they can play against big teams," he said of his expectations.
"Italy for example are currently one of the best teams in Europe and had an excellent World Cup. The change and the development in Italy before the World Cup was incredible. You just have to look at what has happened there. Juventus now have a women’s team, so do Inter Milan."
This kind of change in mentality is what Burstein is looking for in Israel. The major clubs do not yet have women’s teams, which he believes would be a big help. Equally important is for Israeli women’s players to find a way into the top leagues in Europe and then pass on their knowledge and experience to the rest of the national team.
"If we increase the number of training sessions and find out what the players really need, we could maybe reduce the gap between us and the best teams, but we’ve still got a long way to go."
Israel’s qualifying opponents for the UEFA Women's EURO 2021
- Bosnia and Herzegovina (12 November 2019 and 5 March 2020), Italy (29 August 2019 and 10 April 2020), Denmark (3 September 2019 and 4 June 2020), Georgia (10 March 2020 and 14 April 2020) and Malta (7 November 2019 and 22 September 2020)