Israel mourns English football icon, Cohen
By Agency Reporter
Thursday, 30 Dec 2010
Thousands of Israelis paid tribute to local football icon and former Liverpool player Avi Cohen at Tel Aviv?s Ramat Gan national stadium, filing past a flag-draped coffin on Wednesday.
Cohen, a former national team captain and the first Israeli to play in England, was declared brain dead and life-support removed on Tuesday, eight days after going into a coma with head injuries from a motorbike accident.
Eulogising his father who died at the age of 54, Tamir Cohen, himself a midfielder for Bolton Wanderers, said Cohen was outstanding as both a father at home and as a left-back on the pitch.
?You raised us in a way that I wish for every child. You had faith in us, you taught us values and installed us with motivation. You always wanted us to be happy,? he said.
?You were the greatest of them all. Everyone said you were a winner. You are still a winner because you never lost, you won,? he said.
Next to the coffin, draped in the blue-and-white Israeli flag, was a table covered with pictures of Cohen, flowers and the flag of local team Maccabi Tel Aviv, where he launched his career in 1975.
Cohen, who was to be buried later on Wednesday, was born in Cairo in November 1956 and emigrated to Israel as a youngster.
Shortly after starting his career with Maccabi, he was called up to Israel?s national squad. Cohen made Israeli football history in 1979 when he was signed by the then dominant side in English football, Liverpool.
But he never established himself as a first-choice player and returned to Israel two years later.
On its official website, www.liverpoolfc.tv
, the English club announced a ?period of applause? ahead of Wednesday night?s Premiership match at Anfield against Wolves ?to recognise the fine career of former defender Avi Cohen.?
Both sets of players were to wear black armbands, it said.
Liverpool great Kenny Dalglish, who played alongside Cohen and was in the side when the Israeli scored the goal which won England?s domestic championship in 1980, paid a handsome tribute.
?Avi was a lovely man who will be remembered fondly by everyone at Liverpool who knew him ... No-one will forget how he helped us win the league against Aston Villa,? Dalglish said.
He had a second chance in British football in 1987 when he was signed for Scottish giants Rangers by former clubmate Graeme Souness but again it failed to work out.
After another spell with Maccabi he hung up his boots in 1990 and moved into coaching and sports broadcasting, as well as becoming chairman of the Israel Professional Footballers? Association.