Hatem Abd Elhamed made the move to Celtic this summer with Neil Lennon taking a recommendation from the defender’s agent Dudu Dahan. Celtic fans were sceptical considering the ilk of player this agent has brought to the club in the past – Rami Gershon anyone? Stefan Scepovic, Amido Balde.
The Israeli came in for a modest transfer fee and the big point of contention with fans was he appeared to be a centre-back at a time when Celtic needed a right-back. The player and the manager quelled those fears by letting the fans know he could play both positions very well.
So far, so good on that front.
Hatem must have feen on top of the world, celebrating with his teammates at Ibrox after playing the whole game despite not being able to train for ten days prior. However, his move to Celtic wasn’t always a given.
The Israeli star has been away on international duty and had time to reflect a little on his club situation. The defender spoke about the painstaking ordeal of having to tell his former manager he wasn’t going to play for the club in a Euro tie to push through a move to Celtic.
“When you tell your manager a couple of hours before an extremely important game that you are refusing to play, it’s a super dramatic thing.” Hatem told RecordSport.
“I made an exceptionally courageous decision because I knew if I hadn’t done that, I probably wouldn’t have been able to make a transfer to Celtic.
“We were in Albania to play Laci in a Europa League game and it was clear I was going to be starting. It was massively important to the club because we needed a good European run.
“But on the morning of the game I got a phone call telling me that if I played with Be’er Sheva, the transfer to Celtic was off because I then wouldn’t be able to play for Celtic in Europe.
“For three hours I sat in the hotel lobby and drank endless cups of coffee. I couldn’t make up my mind. On the one hand, I desperately wanted to play for Celtic, but on the other hand I didn’t want to let down all the Be’er Sheva fans who had fallen in love with me and had an excellent relationship with. They treated me like a king.
“My head was gone and I couldn’t function because of the pressure of the decision. I knew I would be of no use to the team that night.
“I was too nervous to talk to the manager. I wrote him a long message asking not to play. He took it very badly and that’s not surprising since he had been brilliant with me and helped me so much. The owner, Alona Barkat, also was far from happy. But I couldn’t lie and say I was injured or sick, I just had to tell the truth.
“I then had to wait a further two weeks before the move was completed, so I was very scared it fell through. But I was delighted when the transfer was done and both the manager and the owner wished me all the best, so it did have a happy ending.”
The defender looks to be over his injury which kept him out of the games prior to the Ibrox tie and should be set to play Hamilton on Saturday.