Greek Australian Coach Michael Valkanis Describes Horrors of War and Escape from Israel

Former Ethniki assistant coach Michael Valkanis has been appointed as manager of Israeli side Hapoel Tel Aviv.

Michael Valkanis, a Greek-Australian coach, has shared his harrowing experience of the ongoing war in Israel, which has claimed over 1,100 lives writes SBS Greek news.

"The sirens started to go off, alarming when they want to communicate to the people that there is a situation that is difficult. I was in bed, I woke up, we were going to have a match in the afternoon; I thought it would pass, it's ten minutes and it will pass. Because the sirens go off for a little while, this alarm goes off. This time it lasted 2-3 hours, and during those 2-3 hours, people came out to the balconies to see what was happening. And after almost two hours, the bombing started and they were sounding loudly; then we knew that something more serious was happening," he said.

Valkanis also described the efforts made by his team to ensure the safe departure of foreign football players and non-Israeli coaching staff from the country. He and his son managed to escape to Greece just an hour and a half before the Israeli government declared a no-fly zone.

"We managed to leave around 4:30; at that time, we could hear bombing. When we left, we felt safer, and we found out at 6 pm all other flights were cancelled. Once we got to Athens, we realized what we had been through all day. We hadn't thought about what was happening because we were trying to leave, pack our bags, and find a plane. With our adrenaline rush, we didn't think about what was happening and what the situation was," he said.

Despite the turmoil, Valkanis expressed his attachment to Maccabi Tel Aviv, emphasizing his commitment to the team's project. He expressed his desire to return to Israel when the situation permits.

"At the moment, I haven't thought about wanting to leave because I have become very attached to the team. We started to change everything: the team and the culture. It's a project I love very much because I can leave my stamp on it. I don't think at all that I won't go back again, especially with the friendships I've made, with new partners that I feel like I've worked with all my life, and with the people who have embraced me in Israel and love me. It's very hard to think that I don't want to go back," he said.

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