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Eliran Scores a Stunner

Eliran Atar, his immense talent rescued from a life of petty crime, scores an amazing goal in the Israeli soccer league.

Bnei Yehuda (in orange) are the gutsy underdogs from the wrong side of the tracks playing against Maccabi Netanya, the third-best team in the country — owned by the millionaire Daniel Jammer and coached by Lotthar Matthaus, the German World Cup winning captain of 1990.

Bnei Yehuda represents the Hatikva neighborhood in South Tel Aviv, which is traditionally working-class Mizrahi neighborhood; it is also home to a sizable community of foreign workers, and plentiful tasty street food.

Leading the team on a sudden run of wins, including 3-0 victory against Hapoel Tel-Aviv (the second best team in the league), has been Atar with eight goals. About the same age as Matthaus’s fourth wife, Atar, 22, only escaped conviction of criminal offenses, gang membership and alleged involvement in an armed robbery due to team officials’ help and guarantee of his return to decency. He entered rehab, and voila: an Israeli star was born.

Following that goal (it’s really great, watch it again) and Atar’s recent performances, the media questioned national coach Dror Kashtan’s decision not to include him in the squad for last week’s game against Hungary (which ended in a 1-0 victory to Israel).

This scrutiny has led people to wonder whether Atar has done his military service, without which one cannot officially play for the soccer national team — unless, of course, you happen to be an Arab or a convert. Many more goals of this caliber, though, and they’ll be waiving the restrictions further.

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