Israel suspends two national soccer players for trash-talking head coach

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Abigail Bentz
For the Mitzpeh
@abigailkbentz

Israel’s national soccer team will be missing two of its players after they verbally criticized head coach Elisha Levy.

Goalkeeper Ariel Harush, 28, is from a local Israeli team, Hapoel Tel Aviv, and joined the national team in July, 2015. Harush and striker Tomer Hemed, 29, who plays for Brighton and Hove Albion, a U.K. league team, told Israeli media about the players’ frustration with Levy’s strategies, according to The Times of Israel.

Israel played a World Cup qualifier against Spain on March 28, which they lost 4-1. This loss left the Israeli team four points behind Spain and Italy in the European qualification for the 2018 World Cup, which is scheduled to be held in Russia.

Harush and Hemed were substitutes for the game against Spain, and spoke to the press after the loss. Hemed started and contributed in the qualifiers against Liechtenstein and Macedonia, but was added to the game against Spain in the second half, when Israel was down 0-3.

Local media quoted Hemed saying, “I don’t care what the reason is, I must be a starter for Israel,” according to The Times of Israel.

The two-game suspension includes the team’s World Cup qualifier with Albania, which Israel will host at the Sammy Ofer Stadium in Haifa on June 11. The players will also be missing a game five days earlier against Moldova.

Sophomore communications major Taylor Lavery has played soccer since she was 4 years old, and currently plays intramural for this university.

 

Striker Tomer Hemed celebrates after scoring a goal for Brighton. James Marsh via DailyMail.

Striker Tomer Hemed celebrates after scoring a goal for Brighton. James Marsh via DailyMail.

 

“I think the punishment is fair,” Lavery said. “These two players are part of a team, and a loss is not the result of one individual. I think the coach has the right to suspend them – and the coach is sacrificing a potential national cup in order to teach the players a lesson.”

Sophomore psychology major Dayne St. Clair plays for this university’s varsity soccer team as goalkeeper.

“They need to go about it the right way, by having an open discussion with the coach rather than bad-mouthing, because although they don’t agree with the coach, he is the one that makes the decisions,” St. Clair said.

Levy responded with comments of his own, according to The Jewish Chronicle.

“I expect professional players to know how to behave,” Levy said. “The national team is above everything, and I had no choice but to suspend them.”

Harush and Hemed will be eligible after two games, leaving them off the field until at least September, according to The Jerusalem Post. Levy, though, is expecting an apology, in order to select them for the team again.

Only first place winners of each group will qualify automatically for the 2018 World Cup, according to The Jerusalem Post. Israel is, so far, in third place of Group G. The eight next best teams will advance to home-and-away playoffs.

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