A foreign player for Maccabi Netanya FC arrested on murder charges will be able to play in the team’s game on Saturday, a judge ruled on Thursday after releasing him on house arrest.

Police appealed the judge’s decision, and the player will remain in custody until a further hearing on Friday. The judge made the rather unusual ruling to release the player on house arrest and allow him to take part in the team’s match at Hapoel Acre on Saturday night, following a plea from his attorney that the game is a very important one and his presence on the pitch is crucial to the team.

The player, whose name is banned from publication, was arrested on Wednesday night along with a friend, Congo native Eritsia Akalsongo, on suspicion of murdering 20-year-old Netanya woman Zehava Chikol, whose body was found half-naked outside the city’s Carmel Hotel.

Chikol was discovered by passersby Wednesday morning, and at first police suspected she might have committed suicide, even though there were signs of violence on her body.

After the results of her autopsy became available Thursday afternoon police determined that she died from strangulation and was possibly thrown from the window of the hotel.

The player and his friend Akalsongo, aged 30, share an apartment at the hotel. The player told police that Chikol had been in his apartment along with Akalsongo on Tuesday night, adding that at one point his wife saw Chikol in the background while the player spoke to her on Skype, leading to an argument between them.

The player said that at some point Chikol left and that neither he nor Akalsongo know where she went or what caused her death. The player has also stated that he did not know Chikol personally, and had only met her on Tuesday through his roommate.

On Thursday, the Petah Tikva Magistrate’s Court extended Akalsongo’s remand by seven days.

A paramedic who arrived at the scene on Wednesday night said that police were initially describing the death as a suicide, saying that the woman fell from the third floor, only later changing their assessment, saying that she was thrown from the room after an argument of some sort.

In a statement released on Thursday, Maccabi Netanya FC said “we hope the player was not involved in the affair and regardless we will help police do their job with the hope and belief that the player did not have anything to do with the incident.”

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