(photo credit: AP)
"Your country is a nation of killers and all the time there are only wars there," Andorra national soccer coach David Rodrigo allegedly told Israeli midfielder Yossi Benayoun during Wednesday night's Euro 2008 qualification game in Holland, in which Israel won 4-1.
Benayoun claimed that when he confronted Rodrigo over the comments, the Andorran coach snapped, "shut up! We are going go break you and break your legs."
When Israel took a 2-0 lead in the first half of the game, Benayoun mocked the coach, putting two fingers up in his direction. The referee saw the gesture and promptly booked the Israeli playmaker.
Benayoun said that one of the Andorran players, Juli Fernandez, who scored a late consolation goal for his team, apologized on behalf of Rodrigo telling Benayoun, "I'm sorry for what my coach said." Benayoun also said that at the game's conclusion the referee approached him saying," I am sorry for booking you. It pains me to hear things like that from an international coach."
The government of Andorra views the incident "gravely" and the Sports Minister has sent a letter to the President of the Andorran Soccer Federation, instructing him to carry out a full investigation of the affair, a government spokesperson told the Post by phone.
The Andorran government learned of the affair after reading about it on the Jerusalem Post website. The spokesperson strongly condemned the "insulting remarks" by the Andorran soccer coach David Rodrigo and added that should the Sports Minister's investigation conclude that Rodrigo did make the remarks to the Israeli player, that "likely disciplinary action would follow."
Andorra's Minister of Foreign Affairs has contacted Israel's ambassador to Spain, who also serves as Israel's representative to Andorra, and relayed the government's feelings on the matter. "The government of Andorra totally disassociates itself from this, and we condemn these insulting remarks," the government spokesperson told the Post.
A member of the Andorran Jewish community told the Post by phone that she was shocked at the outburst, but not totally surprised. "By his name, I see that the soccer coach is Spanish, not Andorran. He is like that because in Spain there is anti-Semitism. He is stupid for saying that in public," the community member said.
The Andorran Jewish community numbers about 70 people, originating mostly from Tangiers and Spain.
Chairman of the Israeli Football Association, Itche Menachem, said that the subject would be dealt with. "This is a very serious issue, and I will send a strong letter to UEFA on the matter," said Menachem. "There is no place in sport for comments like these from a national team's coach," he continued.