Robbie Keane was officially unveiled as the new manager of Maccabi Tel Aviv yesterday, where he was already facing some testing questions in relation to his decision to manage an Israeli club.
In terms of a footballing opportunity, this is certainly an interesting one for Ireland's record goalscorer. He is taking over at Israel's most successful club, although they have now gone three years without a league title. Keane will also have a Europa Conference League qualification campaign to look forward to in the weeks ahead.
However, the decision to take a job in such an environment has already been labelled a controversial one.
Keane has faced some heavy criticism for deciding to move to a country which has been labelled as an 'apartheid' state by Amnesty International due to their treatment of Palestinians.
Very very disappointing that Irish Football icon Robbie Keane would sign up with racist and apartheid Israeli club @MaccabitlvBC.
Keane is in a position to set example and Boycott Apartheid but chose not to!! pic.twitter.com/n4ZPj8C57p
— Chris Andrews TD #savemasaferyatta (@chrisandrews64) June 27, 2023
As for Maccabi Tel Aviv itself, they have also found themselves at the centre of controversy in recent years. According to Israeli journalist Rami Younis, certain sections of their support have 'generated a culture of racism' at the club, which includes the targeting of their own players with an Arab background.
Robbie Keane responds to criticism over Israeli move
As a result of this, it was always likely that Robbie Keane would be asked about the reaction to his decision to move to Maccabi Tel Aviv during his opening press conference.
When asked about his thoughts to the reaction of some people in Ireland to the appointment, it was clear that he was not all that happy with the question.
🗣️ “I don’t want to dig into politics, I’m here as a football man and someone who loves the game and I will certainly just focus on that.”
Maccabi Tel Aviv manager Robbie Keane on joining the Israeli Premier League side. pic.twitter.com/GDkNh7LiJe
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) June 28, 2023
I don't want to get into politics. This is the last time I will say it, I certainly don't want to get into politics.
I'm here as a football man and someone that loves the game, so I will certainly just focus on that but thanks for your question...
This is the right opportunity for me to work with people that have the same vision as me. There are millions of coaches out there trying to get job, I'm not different.
It has to be something, as I've mentioned before, that I feel is a good project that is going to help all of us to be successful.
I’m not frightened of a challenge. That doesn’t faze me.
A lot of players that have played in England, they are frightened to try a different opportunity or a different culture but I’m certainly not. I am excited by this.
I’m not coming here as a novice, I’ve been coaching for a few years and know where I want to go.
That is an answer that is unlikely to stem the flow of criticism that has been directed at Robbie Keane over the last 24 hours or so.
As for the footballing challenge that lies ahead, it is a significant one. Maccabi Tel Aviv have not met expectations in recent seasons, something that has resulted in a quick turnover of managers at the club. They have gone through eight managers since August of 2020, with the longest reign in that period lasting 32 games.
Keane will be hoping that he can buck that trend in the months ahead.