Interview with Neta Lavi

JSoccer Magazine and (JS) caught up with Gamba Osaka's new Israeli signing – Neta Lavi (NL) – as the 2023 J1 season began and asked him how he was finding his new home. Action pictures from Gamba 1-1 Sagan Tosu, in J1 Matchday 2, 25th February.

Q: Welcome to Japan, how are you settling in?

A: The boys have welcomed me very well in my first week of training. I am very impressed with the team, the club the country and I am ready to work hard together with everyone.

Q: You only fully joined in training a few days before the season began so it's been a while since you played an actual match, but we saw that you looked very sharp in training.

A: Yes, I feel good. It's not so long since I played, so, of course I had a little jet lag on the first day, but now all is good.

Q: You're the first Israeli to play in J.League. What are your first impressions, and do you feel any pressure?

A: Firstly, the country has really impressed me, and I can see there is a lot of quality from the Japanese players here... yes, I do feel some responsibility being the first Israeli in J.League, but only in a good way. The pressure is a good pressure, and hopefully more Israelis will come to Japan in the future.

Q: What was the process of joining Gamba Osaka?

A: First of all, the club showed me that they really wanted me, which was very important to me. They gave me a great presentation about the club, the country, Japanese culture, and I found it really interesting. So, from the first contact I was ready to join Gamba and I am happy that I took that decision.

Q: Was there any interest from European clubs, or any interest from you to play in Europe?

A: Yes, I did have some offers in Europe, also, but, as I said, I was really impressed with the presentation I was given by Gamba, and I was very interested in coming to Japan. I spoke to a lot of friends who had experience in Asia, in terms of the football, and the culture, and this is what I wanted to do!

Q: Did Japan's performance in the 2022 World Cup have any influence on your decision?

A: Of course I watched all of Japan's games, and now we know that Japanese football has many top players around the world, especially in Europe, so that did indeed give me confidence in my decision.


Year Team League Matches Cup Matches UEFA Matches
App Goals App Goals App Goals
2015/2016 Mac. Haïfa 22 0 8 0 0 0
2016/2017 Mac. Haïfa 31 0 7 0 2 0
2017/2018 Mac. Haïfa 7 0 4 1 0 0
2018/2019 Mac. Haïfa 34 3 5 1 0 0
2019/2020 Mac. Haïfa 33 2 4 0 4 0
2020/2021 Mac. Haïfa 34 2 2 0 4 0
2021/2022 Mac. Haïfa 19 0 2 1 2 0
2022/2023 Mac. Haïfa 17 2 0 0 12 0
2023 Gamba Osaka - - - - - -

 Q: Is the “anchor” position of central midfield your best, or preferred place on the team? You've also played as an “inside half” for the national team, for example.

A: I think that I need to adapt quickly to whatever decision on my position that the manager makes for me, so hopefully I can help the team progress. For most of my career I have played in defensive midfield, but I can play wherever the manager wishes me to play. The most important thing is that the team wins! It's not whether I have a favourite position... I like “number 6” but also play “number 8”. In the end, wherever is best for the team is where I will play.

Q: You missed the pre-season camp, so what are you doing to pick up more details on your fellow players and the tactics of the team?

A: Well, of course, I have all the analyst videos from the training camp – I did want to come to Japan earlier but I could not - so these videos will help me catch up, and this is my responsibility to do this and to learn as much as I can.

Q: How is your communication with your teammates so far?

A: Most of the players are trying to speak English and, like I said, I have been welcomed very openly by all. Of course, this takes time, it won't happen in a day, but in the end we have the same target, for the success of the team. And football has its own language!!

Q: What kind of football would you ideally like to play?

A: Modern football has many types of game, and as the game changes it's not just one thing. Of course, Spain's “tiki taka” is the most beautiful game (editor's note – which fits right in with how Gamba plays!), but it does not necessarily win games, and you need to do everything to win. But how you in is also important!


Q: You're still young and have plenty of time to achieve things... what are your targets in Japan?

A: Obviously the club has goals and targets and if the club reaches these targets then that is fine by me – I am not an individual, I am part of the team. When the club achieves their goals, everyone wins.

Q: It took a while to finalise the details after we first heard that you may be making the move to Gamba?

A: However long it took and whatever happened, that's in the past now. I did want to be with Gamba at the training camp, but I was delayed, but now I need to work hard and be ready for the team.

Q: Is there anything outside football that you're looking forward to in Japan?

A: The country is beautiful, Osaka is a great city, the people are very warm. I'm very happy to be here and hope that everything goes well, but I really need to focus on Gamba Osaka, because this is why I am here! To play football!

Q: Food is an important part of life, too, though. Have you tried Japanese food yet?!

A: Of course, there are plenty of Japanese restaurants in Israel so it's not a case of me never having seen or eaten Japanese food before. Of course, I will also be eating “my local” food, as my wife will be taking care of me well.

Q: Do you feel that Israeli players have a special characteristic of their own?

A: I think that everyone is different and I will just try to be the best version of myself and in the end you will judge me on that!

Q: What do you want fans to call you?

A: “Neta” works for me! That's my name, but if they want to call me something else, that's up to them!

Q: Any impressions on the Gamba fans who came out today (it was a very cold, pre-season training day!)?

A: I was very impressed with the fans that came out to watch us today, on a very cold day, this means a lot to me and, as a player I must respect and be always grateful to them, because football is, in the end, for the supporters. Hopefully we can make them happy with what we do on the field!


Pictures ©JSoccer Magazine

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