Pini Balili (Hebrew: פִּינִי בַּלִילִי; born June 18, 1979) is an Israeli-Turkish footballer currently playing for Maccabi Ironi Bat Yam.

Career

Move back to Hapoel[edit]

As a youngster, Balili grew up supporting Hapoel Tel Aviv and was part of the youth system there before moving to Shimshon Tel Aviv in his teens. It wasn't long before he caught the eye of Hapoel scouts who saw Balili as a missed opportunity so the club purchased his contract after just one professional season. His breakout did not come until the Dror Kashtan era at Hapoel Tel Aviv.[1] Instrumental in the club's success in the UEFA Cup, Balili found himself featuring for the national team as well. After the 2002–03 season, Hapoel decided to cut wages and Pini left for Turkish club Istanbulspor.[2]

Time in Turkey[edit]

Balili's Turkish league debut was sensational; on August 10, 2003, he scored a beautiful chip as his team surprised city rivals Fenerbache 3–0. troubles at Istanbulspor led to Balili being let go after just one season. Though he immediately signed with newly promoted Kayserispor. In 2006, Sivasspor applied for Turkish citizenship for Balili stating that he is a model citizen in Turkey and has full grasp of the Turkish language.[3]

A somewhat religious man, rumors were started that a league match between Sivasspor and Ankaraspor, was postponed during the 2006–07 on account of it coinciding with Yom Kippur. The Turkish Football Federation denied these claims.[4] The story garnered some press coverage, namely because Israeli goalkeeper, Dudu Aouate claimed that he was willing to play on the Jewish day of atonement.

On August 12, 2007 Balili was viciously tackled by Trabzonspor's Egyptian defensive midfielder, Ayman Abdelaziz.[5] Allegedly, Ayman swore at Balili in Arabic before the tackle and it caused the Sivasspor players to fight with the Trabzonspor players. A spectator then jumped onto the pitch and threw punches.[6] Sivasspor players responded which led to a big fight on the field. Trabzonspor got punished for this incident.

Return to Israel[edit]

On the June 16, 2010 Balili signed a two-year contract with Bnei Yehuda reuniting with his former coach Dror Kashtan. His lifestyle since his return has come into question by the press, after being seen out in town with Skeletor.

Honours