Soccer Star Avi Nimni Is Born

April 26, 1972

Avi Nimni, considered one of the greatest players ever for the Maccabi Tel Aviv soccer club, is born in the Holon section of Tel Aviv.

Nimni joins Maccabi Tel Aviv’s youth program at age 7 and makes his debut for the professional team in Israel’s first division at 17. He is a regular starter as an attacking midfielder at age 18.

His success in Israel leads to two limited opportunities to play in Europe’s top soccer leagues. He is transferred to Spanish club Atletico Madrid during the summer of 1997 but, battling injuries, plays only seven games before being returned to Maccabi in January 1998. Maccabi sends him to Derby County, then playing in the English Premier League, for a six-month loan in July 1999, but Nimni plays only four games and scores one goal.

He thrives back at Maccabi, serving as the team captain and scoring 77 goals in 116 games for the Tel Aviv team between 1998 and 2003. But a rift develops between Nimni and teammate Tal Banin during the 2002-03 season, and team manager Nir Klinger that summer releases both players to unify the club. Grieving fans wear black shirts and show signs supporting Nimni, who plays the next two seasons for Beitar Jerusalem. He returns to Maccabi Tel Aviv for the 2005-06 season and remains with the club for the rest of his career.

Nimni plays his last match May 17, 2008. It’s his 416th professional club match overall and 355th appearance for Maccabi Tel Aviv. He ends his career with 195 club goals, including a team record 174 for Maccabi, which retires his No. 8 jersey. He works in Maccabi’s front office after his playing career and does some coaching.

Nimni also makes 80 appearances for Israel’s national team from 1992 to 2006 and scores 17 international goals.