Gadi Kinde (Photo by: Yanai Yechiel)

Soccer star looks to prove his worth in Ashdod’s midfield

It didn’t take Jacky Ben-Zaken long to appreciate the new kid on the block. The owner of Ashdod Sport Club heard the praise being heaped on an Ethiopian on Ashdod’s youth team and decided to see for himself. Gadi Kinde’s skills immediately caught the boss’ eye.

“He saw me and liked what he saw, I guess,” Kinde says. “He must have seen my potential, my talent, and I felt that he trusted me. Otherwise I wouldn’t have made the adult team at this age.”

“This age” is under 18 (Kinde will turn 18 in March ), but the youngster is already an attacking midfielder on the Ashdod team, which plays in the Premier League. Ben-Zaken took him under his wing and gave him financial support. “Jacky’s the dominant person in my life, not only in soccer,” Kinde says. “He supports me in everything.”

For now, Kinde isn’t even thinking about the big time. “My only dream right now is to succeed on the team,” he says modestly. “At this stage I’m not even thinking about Europe. All I want is to have a few good seasons in Ashdod and succeed with the team. I don’t have any big dreams at this stage.”

Kinde immigrated to Israel with his family from Ethiopia when he was 3 (“I hardly remember anything from there” ). They settled in Ashdod. With soccer it was love at first sight. His older brother saw him doing tricks with the ball and knew right away that Gadi’s talents mustn’t be wasted on the neighborhood asphalt.

“When I was 7, he took me to a kids’ training session in Ashdod, and since then I’ve been rolling along with the ball,” Kinde says. “Soccer was everything for me. I played during every spare minute, at recess, after school. I got on well at the club; I was made to feel at home from the start. Of course, it helped that they saw I was talented.”

Kinde of course played on youth clubs, including for the national team. “It wasn’t until I was 16 that I started to realize that this wasn’t just a hobby for me, but a real career for the future,” he says. “At that age you can see clearly if it’s on the way to being a career. I realized that I was good at it, that I could make it. I was a very dominant player on the youth team and I believed in my ability.”

Last summer Ashdod’s general manager, Yossi Mizrahi, threw him in with the big boys. “I was a little scared at first,” Kinde says. “I didn’t know whether I would even get onto the field, and for sure I didn’t expect to be on the starting team my first year. I proved myself in summer training camp and won the coach’s trust. I have a lot to improve, especially getting stronger physically. I’m only at the start of the road.”