Goodbye and good luck, Hatem

Under unfortunate circumstances for Celtic, Hatem Elhamed may return to play in Israel to be closer to his family.

There’s an elephant in the room that no one is talking about: a work-visa system in Scotland which, for all intents and purposes, seems on the surface as selective and arbitrary. It’s a system that keeps players like Americans Andrew Gutman and Manny Perez from opportunities to play for the Celts, and it kept Hatem Elhamed’s wife from working in Scotland while he plays for the Hoops.

As a result, Elhamed has stayed in Scotland to play football while Mrs. Elhamed has returned to Israel with their son, leaving the Celtic defender to live alone in Glasgow. It has been reported that Elhamed leaves his house only to train with the team and to play games for the Celts.

Elhamed has had to make a really difficult choice – to stay in solitude in Scotland or to return to his family in Israel. It appears that, understandably, he will be pursuing the latter course.

I stay “understandably” because I know this drill firsthand. In the mid-’90s I started a relationship with a Japanese woman in the U.S., followed her back to Japan, married her there, and we had a daughter all in the space of the four years we lived there. Even with a family, culturally it was a major adjustment to live in a foreign land, so I would imagine it would be significantly worse without the benefit of family support.

So I get it, Hatem. And those who ludicrously and ridiculously comment that, “Well, he has his tons of cash to keep him company,” well, they reveal with that simply moronic statement that they have no clue. On anything.

Elhamed brought a lot of good things to the Celtic table. He was fast, he was an outstanding defender, his play on the wing — especially lately, off an injury — was top-notch. It’s unfortunate that Celtic loses a quality player primarily due to government bureaucracy rather than to injury or to being enticed away from afar with riches.

Fortunately for Elhamed, he has options: The Daily Record reports that Israeli clubs are lining up to sign him. Hapoel Be’er Shiva, his former club prior to joining Celtic, seems to be first in line — with open arms, apparently — and Be’er Shiva gaffer Yossi Abukasis said, “Hatem is an excellent player that every team would want to sign. If we can bring him here to the club it will be a huge blessing for us.”

No doubt the other clubs seeking Elhamed’s services — Maccabi Haifa, Beitar Jerusalem and Maccabi Tel Aviv — might agree.

[As an aside: Hatem, please don’t sign with Beitar Jerusalem. Just don’t. You know why.]

So while he will no doubt be successful wherever he ends up in Israel, I will miss him wearing the Hoops. Goodbye and good luck, Hatem!

Mon the Hoops!

6 thoughts on “Goodbye and good luck, Hatem”

  1. Great article Larry, I think at times it’s too easy to forget footballers are mere mortals like the rest of us. I had spells working away and leaving family behind, only getting back at weekend’s never mind during a pandemic and unable to hug your wife or kids for weeks on end.
    I used to drive south with a lump in the throat all the way in the early hours of Monday morning and be banging the steering wheel in Friday night tailbacks out of London as the hold ups ate into my family time. That is a tiny inconvenience compared to what guys like Hatem and others within clubs everywhere must be going through. I always like Hatem and would love him to stay, but family must always be the priority. The vast majority of fans will fully understand and I’ll keep an eye out for his results, though like you Larry I hope he and his agent leave Beitar well alone.

  2. I fully sympathise with Hatem. I am from this country, met my wife to be while working in Singapore. We have been waiting 30 months to live together here with the exception of 2 x 6 month stays.

    A very good defender I thought, his performance at 2-0 Ibrox springs to mind

  3. I’d like to wish Hatem all the best of luck when he goes home.
    I’ve been an Israeli sympathiser since I was 1958 when I was only 8 and still at St, Roch’s primary school and I’m now 70.
    If any fellow Hoops fans are interested , try and watch a documentary called “Exodus 1947-A Desperate Journey “ and they might understand why Hatem is leaving and wants to be with his family. I find shocking that Mrs Elhamid was not granted a work permit. Best wishes and you’ll be missed.

    1. The work permit issue seems to be a head-scratcher because, as I mentioned, neither of Celtic’s American signees — Gutman and Perez — can get visas. American Cameron Harper on the Reserves is the son of Scottish parents living in the U.S., so I think that could be the work-around there. Anyway, that’s an issue that Celtic should investigate further when it comes to having foreign players on the squad.

  4. A strange comment about “Exodus 1947-A Desperate Journey” given that Hatem is an Arab-Israeli. In my two years working in Jerusalem I didn’t meet any Arab-Israelis or Palestinians that view the state of Israel positively. At best, Hatem would be a second class citizen and I’m pretty sure he’ll more likely relate to Al Nakba than Exodus. Perhaps Thomas ought to visit all the Palestinian refugee camps and also witness the crappy infrastructure the Arab-Israelis are afforded in comparison to their Jewish neighbours. I’m not particularly interested in the politics of it all but it was clear to me on a daily basis that Israel is an apartheid state and systematically breaches human rights.

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