Former Celtic man Hatem Abd Elhamed is enjoying his football again

By Euan Davidson

May 6, 2021

Former Celtic defender Hatem Abd Elhamed always looked decent when he was available.

Part of a title-winning side, Elhamed was troubled by injuries throughout his time at Celtic. When he got on the pitch, in the 19-20 campaign, he always looked more than capable. An experienced Israeli international, Elhamed seemed the likely first choice at right-back before the emergence of Jeremie Frimpong.

Not that it was his natural position. On song, though, it looked like it. Having spent the majority of a nomadic career, which includes spells at Genk and FC Dinamo, at centre-back, the Israeli’s versatility made him look like an astute signing in 2019 [Daily Record].

This time round, he barely featured again, with injuries to blame. When he made the pitch, his lack of fitness was extremely telling. Over 3 Europa League appearances and 409 Premiership minutes [Transfermarkt], Elhamed was forced, half-fit, into various formations.

There’s a reason why no defenders have truly covered themselves in glory this season. Unfortunately, repeated tinkering meant that nobody in the Celtic defence could truly get settled. It’s little coincidence that Stephen Welsh’s consistency has been simultaneous with a settled back-line.

Now though, Elhamed is finally getting the solid run of games that he so sorely needed. He’s already garnered more league minutes than he did at Celtic this season. He’s also making a mark on the international stage, playing 180 minutes for Israel in March, including a meeting with Scotland.

Celtic defender Hatem Abd Elhamed / (Photo by Giuseppe Maffia/SNS Group via Getty Images)

Hatem Abd Elhamed has happier Celtic departure than some of his contemporaries

It’s been genuinely good to see Elhamed getting the minutes he needed. So obviously homesick, former manager Neil Lennon told BBC Radio Sportsound:

“He has yeah (officially left the club] and he’s gone back to Be’er Sheva.

“He made it clear for a few months that he was very unhappy. That was apparent in his demeanour and his work ethic and his training performances.

“So as a duty of care to the player it was the right thing to do.”

We sometimes forget that footballers are human beings. While the recent social media boycott has highlighted the abuse players receive, there are myriad factors that can unsettle a player. A very sudden change of scenery can be extremely jarring. Often, players will have to accept a contract from a club they don’t want to necessarily join, because it’d greatly benefit the club they’re leaving.

All sorts of problems, the same that affect our work lives, have an identical impact on footballers. The difference, though, is that they’re being scrutinised publicly, 24/7. So, even a player who started as brightly as Elhamed can burn out from homesickness, family issues or generally feeling unsettled.

At least now, though, he’s home and playing on a regular basis. He won’t be winning trophies at the same rate, but he’s firmly in the international fold and he’s back with his family. You can’t really ask for much more.

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