It's Game on for Sela

By Simon Griver, June 20, 2008

Eyal Berkovic is set to become the new manager of Israel’s Under 17 team.

Now 36, Berkovic won 82 caps for Israel during a career that took him from Maccabi Haifa to Southampton, West Ham, Celtic, Blackburn, Manchester City, Portsmouth and finished at Maccabi Tel Aviv in May, 2006.

“My ambition is to train the Israel national team,” he said. “And it is preferable that I begin with the schoolboys. I want to raise a good generation of youngsters and move up with some of them to the national team.”

Famous for his vision and flair as a creative midfielder, he was also renowned for high profile spats with managers including Kevin Keegan, Martin O’Neill and Avram Grant, who dropped him from the Israel team ahead of the 2006 World Cup qualifying campaign. On his return to Israel, Berkovic played for one unsuccessful season with Maccabi Tel Aviv after his former club Maccabi Haifa refused to take him back and he quit Maccabi Netanya after two months as Technical Director.

Last year, he allegedly assaulted the coach of his 10-year-old son Lior at Maccabi Herzliya. But Berkovic rejects suggestions that he does not have the temperament to be an example to Israel’s teenage stars when he takes over from Ze’ev Zeltzer.

“I’ve always attracted fire,” he said. “People only know the bad things that were written about me but are less aware of the good things that I haven’t told the media.”

l Israel manager Dror Kashtan has laughed off a threat from Israel FA President Avi Luzon that he would be sacked if the team lost its opening World Cup 2010 qualifier against Switzerland in Ramat Gan in September.

The claims follow Switzerland’s early elimination from Euro 2008. Luzon said that Kashtan and his assistant Moshe Sinai would be dismissed if Israel was defeated as they would have no chance of  reaching the finals in South Africa. Although the tone of the conversation was light-hearted, Kashtan was not amused. He said: “Even if we don’t beat Switzerland there are still a lot of games to play and anything can happen.”

Israel and Denmark have been shortlisted to host the Uefa Under 21 Championships in 2011. Uefa whittled down 14 original applicants to two and will send a delegation to Israel next month. A decision will be made in November.

Last updated: 3:01pm, July 27 2009