Sinai Says: The IFA must ignore Berkovic's powerful campaign

Sinai Says The IFA must

The notion of Eyal Berkovic being named as the next Israel coach is a tempting one. After four years of Dror Kashtan's dreariness, who would not want the ever-entertaining Berkovic at the helm? The former Celtic and Manchester City midfielder is a compelling character at the best of times, and a comic personality at the worst. The presence of his big mouth will ensure Kashtan's boring clichés will be gone for good and may well initially bring back those fans who were alienated from the national team during Kashtan's tenure. While Israel Football Association chairman Avi Luzon has insisted he intends to appoint a foreign coach, Berkovic has orchestrated a masterful media campaign in recent months, recruiting the country's most powerful press outlets to champion his promotion. The day after Israel's dream of reaching a first World Cup in 40 years went up in flames last September, Israel's most popular daily, Yedioth Aharonoth, splashed Berkovic's face on its front page and called for his appointment as coach. Others have followed in calling for the former midfield magician to take Kashtan's place, claiming that he is not only a soccer genius, but a colourful celebrity who will inject some life into a depressing national team. However, as difficult as it may be, the IFA must steadfastly withstand the public and media pressure, because to name Berkovic the next Israel coach would be a grave mistake on a variety of levels. The 37-year-old may have been a once-in-a-generation player on the pitch, but he has never coached a team in his life. While it is true that he runs a soccer school in Nesher, it is just as true - and all the more glaring - that he has yet to even complete his coaching credentials. His supporters claim that if Diego Maradona (Argentina), Marco van Basten (Holland) and Jurgen Klinsmann (Germany) could coach their respected national teams without any significant experience, so can Berkovic. However, this is just another example of a trend arriving in Israel long after it has been exhausted abroad. The experiment of having an inexperienced former player as coach failed time and again across the world in recent years, and there is no reason the IFA should repeat the mistakes of others. Furthermore, the world's top soccer nations, in Europe and elsewhere, can afford to take a risk on a coach, as they can always count on a never-ending well of playing talent. Israel, on the other hand, needs its coach to possess the utmost tactical prowess and a wealth of experience to turn to in times of need, which will surely arrive. In any case, even had Berkovic been an accomplished coach coming off several successful seasons at club-level, he is most certainly the wrong man to lead the national team. For all his remarkable play on the field, Berkovic has behaved disgracefully off it on more than one occasion, and is far from being the role model Israel's soccer-loving youngsters deserve. After being dropped by Avraham Grant at the start of the 2006 World Cup qualifying campaign, Berkovic furiously attacked the coach and had no qualms in saying that he hoped the national team failed without him. Berkovic has since repeatedly claimed that nothing is more important to him than the national team, but his own words have proved that his ego would always come before the success of the Israel side. Far more serious is the fact that Berkovic was convicted of assaulting and threatening his son's soccer coach in March of last year. Berkovic was sentenced to serve 100 hours of community service by the Kfar Saba Magistrate's Court as part of a plea bargain. He admitted to boarding the bus of Maccabi Herzliya's children's team, in which his son played, in October of 2007 and assaulting coach Danny Etziyoni while verbally abusing him. Berkovic himself admitted to saying to his son's coach: "I will destroy you. I will haunt you for the rest of your career." Berkovic's biggest asset in his campaign to become the next Israel coach is that he is the complete opposite of Kashtan. However, matters will only be made worse if the utter failure of the outgoing coach results in the appointment of Berkovic. The former Maccabi Haifa legend is taking advantage of the current situation, where most Israel soccer fans would happily welcome a well-trained monkey as Kashtan's replacement. However, the IFA must ignore popular demand and take serious heed as the Israel national team is not a reality television show. When it really comes down to it, the coach deemed to have the best chances of guiding the team to success should be named as Kashtan's replacement. Whatever you think of Berkovic, that is one criterion he simply does not fulfill.