Cantona in Israel for beach soccer tournament

Manchester United legend may make appearance for France in Diamonds Challenge Tournament being played on Thursday and Friday.

August 9, 2007 07:43
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Manchester United legend Eric Cantona, the current coach of the French national beach soccer team, was due to arrive in Israel late Wednesday night to lead France in a four-nation international beach soccer tournament to be held in Netanya this week. A controversial and fiery character, Cantona was one of the most significant players at English club Manchester United in the 1990s, where he won four Premier League titles in five years. Although he is not included in the playing squad, there has been speculation that Cantona may make an appearance for France in the Diamonds Challenge Tournament being played on Thursday and Friday. Also competing will be the Israeli, German and Turkish national beach soccer teams. Former Betar Jerusalem star Itzik Zohar will play for Israel. Besides his numerous goals for United, including the winner in the 1996 FA Cup final against Liverpool, Cantona is also well known for his short temper and the Kung Fu style kick he launched on a Crystal Palace fan who had been taunting the Frenchman after he was sent off in a league game at Palace's Selhurst Park stadium in 1995. Cantona was banned from soccer for eight months and forced to undertake 120 hours community service. At a press conference after the incident, Cantona coined a trademark inscrutable philosophical utterance, declaring, "When the seagulls follow the trawler, it's because they think the sardines will be thrown into the sea." Some people have interpreted this as an attack on journalism; others are still trying to figure out what exactly he meant. In 1997 he retired from professional soccer but has kept his interest in the sport through beach soccer. Intriguing and charismatic, Cantona has starred in a series of Nike commercials in recent years, extolling the virtues of "Jogo Bonito" - playing soccer beautifully, for the pure fun of it. Cantona is scheduled to appear at a pre-tournament press conference in Netanya on Thursday, but journalists have been warned not to ask any questions on subjects other than beach soccer. A spokesman for the tournament said it would be best to keep off the subject of the Kung Fu kick "just in case".

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