Transportation Minister Miri Regev has called on Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit to stop Sports and Culture Minister Chili Tropper from interfering with the possible appointment of an Israel national soccer team coach on Sunday and called on Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel to clarify comments made by a possible candidate for the job.
Regev caused broad uproar on Friday after she threatened retired soccer star Eyal Berkovic, who is now a popular TV show host and who has in the past put himself forward for the coach’s job, saying that if he did not apologize to Likud for a comment he made against the party, he would never get the position.
She added on Sunday that any interference by Tropper should be considered a criminal act, as it would constitute a conflict of interests.
“Even if Regev continues to make political rounds on the backs of Israeli sport, the picture will not change: she is interfering in matters that do not concern her. It involves politics in sport and thus harms the national team and its millions of fans,” said Tropper in response to Regev’s comments.
“I make clear again that the Culture and Sports Ministry under me will ensure that the appointment of the national coach, like any other professional decision regarding infrastructure, appointments and budgets, will never be the result of political considerations and I will not allow political intervention in these proceedings,” added Tropper.
“I suggest Regev remembers the real challenges of the State of Israel at the moment, and at least engage in building roads and not in destroying public trust.”
It should be noted that international soccer statutes strictly forbid political interference in the running of the sport and only the sanctioned body in Israel, the Israel Football Association, is authorized to appoint a coach at its own discretion. If political interference is proven, it would lead to Israel’s automatic exclusion from all international soccer events.
Regev was interviewed on the weekly Friday evening show “Ofira and Berkovic” on N12 where she told co-host Berkovic that if he did not apologize to the Likud Party, his wish to coach the national team would never be realized.
The apology, which Regev considered necessary, was for a comment he made the previous week when he said that Knesset members from Regev’s Likud Party, headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, had been behaving like a “criminal organization” in their handling of the coronavirus crisis.
“As long as you do not apologize to the Likudniks, you will never be the coach of the Israeli national team, I’m telling you,” Regev said.
“There’s no chance,” replied Berkovic as the item turned into an acrimonious shouting match.
Regev continued, explaining that she was waiting “for you to apologize to a million and a half Likudniks whom you called members of a criminal organization, just like [Israeli television personality] Dudu Topaz called us riffraff and like others called us mezuzah-kissers.”
Berkovic responded, “I was only referring to you and your whole crew, a bunch of suck-ups.”
“I wish you would reach a quarter of our morals,” Regev quipped, screaming. “You should be ashamed of yourself.”
Regev announced at the top of her voice that she and other Likud supporters were proud that the person running the country is Netanyahu, to which Berkovic responded, “You are proud, [but] I’m not proud anymore.”On Sunday, Regev gave an interview to N12 and said that "[she doesn't] really have an influence on determining who the national team's coach will be."
Tamar Beeri and Tobias Siegal contributed to this report.