Israeli football great Avi Cohen declared brain dead

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

TEL AVIV - Israeli football great Avi Cohen, the first Israeli to play professionally for an English club, was declared brain dead Tuesday, eight days after being critically injured in a motorcycle accident, his son said.

Cohen, a highly-rated defender who played for Maccabi Tel Aviv, was signed in 1979 by Liverpool football club, one of England’s most famous clubs, after a week’s trial. The fee was 200,000 pounds.

He played his first league game for the Reds against Leeds United in September 1979, but failed to impress, and was quickly relegated to the reserves, where he languished for the next six months.

His crowning moment as a Liverpool player came when he rejoined the senior squad, and played in Liverpool’s last home game of the 1979-80 season, a match they had to win in order to be crowned champions of what was then the English First Division.

Liverpool were leading Aston Villa 1-0, when Cohen attempted to clear a shot but instead saw it sail into the Liverpool net for the equalizer.

But he more than made amends six minutes after half time, when he chased a badly cleared ball and kicked it into the Villa goal, prompting commentator John Motson to exclaim, “Oh I say. At the same end he’s got one back.”

Liverpool went on to win the match 4-1, and take the League Championship.

Although Cohen could pass the ball well, and was a good reader of the game, his lack of pace let him down and he never became a first team regular. He played only 24 times for Liverpool, before returning to Israel and Maccabi Tel Aviv, for a fee of 100,000 pounds, in November 1981.

He had one more spell in Britain, playing a season for Glasgow Rangers, managed by his old Liverpool team mate Graeme Souness, in 1987, and ended his career in Israel with Maccabi Netanya.

Cohen, who was born in Cairo, played 64 times for Israel and at the time of his fatal accident was the head of the Israel Footballers Association.

At present there are five Israeli players in the English Premier League, among them Avi Cohen’s son, Tamir, a midfielder for Bolton Wanderers.

Filed under: Football

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