The current season of MS Ashdod is without a doubt one of the most successful in the history of the club from the port city. Among a combination of experienced players alongside promising young players in Ran Ben Shimon’s squad, is one of the rising talents in Israeli football, Muhammad Canaan, the freshman invited to the squad of Willy Rotensteiner and the Israel national team for the upcoming game window at the opening of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers.
The 21-year-old Canaan, known as Hamudi, grew up in Majd al-Krum to parents Munir and Mislon and a younger brother to Amir, who is also a football player who plays in the defensive position in the second division. The father of the two was also a former player, as was his uncle, Islam Canaan, who is known to fans from Carmel from the period when he previously wore the uniforms of Maccabi and Hapoel Haifa. Islam was also the one who recommended the family to take Hamudi as early as the age of 13 to the Maccabi Haifa academy in Nahalal, in order to develop the talent he recognized in him, and indeed it was.
The Canaan family accompanied Hamudi through all the stages of acclimatization at Maccabi Haifa, even a year after he joined, so they decided to transfer him to the training complex Foam in Carmel, a decision reserved for very prominent players at these ages, as they are usually transferred at a young age. The connection was transferred to the compound at the foot of the Carmel under boarding school conditions, in order to allow him to combine further studies in parallel with training and games.
Canaan managed to stand out in the youth team of the Greens, despite its young age and shy nature, thanks to the ability to get out of the place quickly, explosive power and tremendous kick, which managed to amaze almost anyone who watched it on the lawn. No less than the ability, the character of the boy from Majd al-Krum was the one who managed to mesmerize the environment, so to this day. Stories about a shy, humble, kind, valued and wonderfully educated boy, one who is not willing to look his coaches in the eye out of humility and respect, to this day. A good kid who in his spare time mostly plays Sony with friends or visits family in the north.
His coach during the time he played in the youth of the Greens and the assistant coach of Hapoel Acre in the present, With me MordechaiHe recalled the days when he coached the Ashdod connection: “I had a funny story with him when he was at Maccabi Haifa. Hamudi is a very good friend of my son, Roi, and one day they walked together in the hallway near the foam locker room and I just walked across. Hamudi told my son.” Let’s move to the side, the coach came and Roy did not understand what he wanted and laughed ‘but it’s my father’ but it did not matter, he wanted to respect me as a coach and for him to walk in front of me in the hall was disrespectful. He respects coaches amazingly, does not look coaches in the eyes, “Everything is always modest and respectful. A child is really amazing and you see that it is from home.”
The ability, along with the character that managed to charm many, testified to a very good atmosphere around him in the green period and good relations with the club people. Therefore, Maccabi Haifa was very surprised when in May 2018 they discovered that the player was flying with his agent, Dudu Dahan, to tests in Belgium without their approval while he was under contract. In Haifa, they did not view the matter favorably and understood from the player and his surroundings that he was determined to leave, while at the same time he was offered to MS Ashdod.
The Greens to this day do not really understand what was behind the decision. At the time, he said, it was a family decision made with the thought of what would be good for him in the future. However, coaches who accompanied the player along the way noted that this is an era where footballers prevent a lot from the decisions and intervention of such and such relatives, “This is a modest and quiet family. They are involved in Hamudi’s career but mostly support him and run only in front of him. “In front of a coach or a team, not in training, not in games and not in between. If they come to games, it’s just to support him.”
In the shadow of the desire to leave Maccabi Haifa, the bitter rival, Maccabi Tel Aviv, also expressed interest in the talent that stood out in the Greens’ youth department, “an option arose that he would come to Maccabi,” he said. Nir Levin, Who was the professional director of the Yellow Youth Department at the time. “He was at Maccabi Haifa, due to residence and all sorts of reasons we could not bring him to Maccabi Tel Aviv and he stayed there and after a while moved to Ashdod.” According to associates who were at the heart of the issue, the move to Maccabi Tel Aviv was unsuccessful and the main demand was financial. Of Haifa for him, along with the fact that the Yellows at that time were not interested in investing money in external youth players, but acted to invest money in existing ones, as well as in facilities, training technologies and the like.
Finally, the player came to the auditions in Ashdod and after consulting Jackie Ben Zaken with the man who coached him in the boys’ team, Alon Hazan, and the then director of the club’s youth department, Yossi Mizrahi, the owner decided to join him immediately. In light of the situation and the stubborn interest around him, Maccabi Haifa placed a high price tag on the talent they nurtured, when he was only 18, a move that made Ashdod initially shy away from the amount, since he was still a youth player.
The player’s representatives did not give up and the relationship between the Greens and the player worsened when they approached the player status committee. In the end, the parties managed to reach an understanding without the committee, and Ashdod acquired Canaan for NIS 450,000. “If he did smart? I keep asking myself this question” Mordechai wondered, “I do not know what would have happened if he had stayed at Maccabi Haifa but in the test of the result it seems that the decision was right. He progressed very well, received a summons to the team and is the team player. “She is in third place in the league, under one of the best coaches in the league. We are in Haifa, neither the management nor the team, we wanted him to leave, but he made his choice.”
Canaan’s first year in Ashdod was not as simple as any beginning. The youth team was relegated and the promising player was unable to assist at that time, despite five goals he scored to its credit. In the following season, Hamudi was already registered as a senior player when in Ashdod they gave up the option of registering as an age exception in the youth, in order to allow him to develop.
Ben Zaken asked at the beginning of that season to see more young players from the academy get opportunities, to allow them more space to enjoy the fruits of the academy. “Jackie believed in him from the first moment and wanted to promote him in the belief that he would be the face of MS Ashdod in the coming years,” the person who received him told the graduates, Rooney Awat. “My darling amazing guy, a very introverted kid, he had some absorption difficulties at first because he’s such a good kid, too good.” As a result, he did not play at first and had difficulty getting the credit, in addition to going out for almost two weeks for his sister’s wedding, which made it difficult for him to return to the pitches while at a critical time in his career, the transition between teens and seniors.
In the same season, Canaan started the team in ten games, came in as a substitute 12 times and recorded a balance of four goals and four assists. “He had a major problem at the time, a recovery-to-action recovery problem,” Awat analyzes. “He would do intense activity for an amazing 20-30 minutes and then he would shut down. We knew right away that was it, Hamudi finished. Things changed when Sharan arrived because his method was better suited to the player. “Like Hamudi, Ran loves connections and here the combination of Canaan together with Roi Gordana and Shlomi Azulai leads to excellent results. This is a method that is tailor-made for him and no wonder he has made significant progress in it.”
also Ben Shimon Provides an interesting explanation for the change the relationship has undergone: “I think Ashdod is the perfect place for young people. The pressure to achieve is not like in Maccabi Haifa or Maccabi Tel Aviv so there is room for young players to develop. Hamudi did not start the season well but because of the possibility we have in the team. “Allowing him to play even if he is struggling but less good, Hamudi has a process of self-learning. He has made incredible progress this season, he is not the same player he was at the beginning of the season.”
There is no doubt that the significant leap forward that the player went through last season is attributed to the club to the credit of Ben Shimon, who immediately upon his arrival on the team demanded to examine and check on every player and player on his roster. Itai Mordechai and Nir Levin also remember well the conversations they had with the coach about the promising player, so that Rabash will have the ability to build an orderly profile about him, both individually and as a team. “I go through a personal process with each player,” says Ben Shimon. “An actor has his own card and we go through things together, that’s how it was with Hamudi, he asked and wanted to learn all the time.”
In Ashdod it is said that as with every player, the two also go through almost every game on videos and analyze the moves the player made, what can be preserved and where to improve, so that during the season they have often seen the improvement graph of the relationship on the rise with quite a few parameters. The club also said that one of the gifts Hamudi received from the team this season is his great connection with Roi Gordana, one of its leaders, who often directs him on and off the field, as several times this season the two teamed up together in a room in hotels the team went to.
The news of Canaan’s summons to the national team did not surprise the people of Ashdod, who expected and expected that in light of the ability and trend of improvement he has shown since the beginning of the season, it will not be long before the Austrian coach’s eyes catch him. The midfielder, who has made 24 appearances so far this season, including 21 in the lineup, in which he scored a goal and cooked three, received the news in Ashdod’s morning training ahead of the game against Betar Jerusalem. Ben Shimon announced this to everyone and according to those present it was hard to miss the excitement Hamudi’s great at that moment.
Canaan, who is often considered one of the favorite characters in the locker room in the port city, “won” congratulations in the form of capes from his teammates, who cheered for him and congratulated him on the summons, while he became very red and embarrassed by the exciting situation. “With the summons to the team he puts the stamp of the move from another potential to the player. In this summons he learned that there is a tremendous connection between investment and outcome. But with all the joy, he must also remember that he has a lot more to learn and where to improve. In his way and in his investment, “Ben Shimon added.
It is no secret that in Ashdod, Canaan is seen as the one who will, in the not-too-distant future, generate a very handsome sum of money for the club’s coffers. Its current market value is 400,000 euros, just three years after it was acquired by Ashdod for 450,000 shekels. Last August he signed a new and improved five-year contract, due to Ben Zaken’s belief in him, his ability to contribute to the team as well as his future sale, which will already be very worthwhile compared to the amount he was acquired at 18.
So what’s the next destination? Professionals in the industry are convinced that he has all the data to be a legitimate European player, yet know that there is still a long way to go in order to reach his true potential. Some compare it to Biram Kiel in terms of strengths, but alongside all this in most voices argued that he should make a smart and not shiny transition. He has to move through the middle leagues on the way to the senior league in order to gain European experience, development and personal promotion, as Sean Weissman did and as Manor Solomon does today. Ashdod does not intend to sell the connection to the group in Israel, but does not rule out anything out of hand. Currently the team wants to continue to enjoy the player himself and his ability before allowing them to spread their wings.
Against Denmark on Thursday, the connection that has passed in all Israeli teams so far and managed to stand out among a variety of promising and talented young players, will reach the field of the greats while he is marked as one of the key figures to lead the Israeli team in the coming years. “His potential is higher than what he brings today, he has more to improve,” said Levin, who until recently coached him in the young team, “Once he makes that leap, he will improve the parameters he needs to improve and continue working, also mentally, “He will be able to reach his full potential. It all depends on his development. He needs to work properly and be worked on correctly.”