Middle East

Israeli former football international Avi Cohen dies

Avi Cohen in England in 1979
Image caption Avi Cohen captained the Israeli national team as well as playing for Liverpool

Former Israeli international footballer Avi Cohen has died from head injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident.

His son, Tamir Cohen, who plays for Bolton Wanderers in the English Premier League, said his father was pronounced brain dead by doctors at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv.

Avi Cohen, 54, was gravely injured in the accident last week.

The defender was the first Israeli to play in the English top flight when he signed for Liverpool in 1979.

"To our great sadness, a health ministry committee was in the hospital today and confirmed that our father is indeed brain dead. Which is to say, he has died," Tamir Cohen said, Reuters news agency reported.

The Bolton midfielder and Israeli international had flown to Israel from England following his father's accident.

'Diamond of a guy'

Former Liverpool team-mate Kenny Dalglish described Avi Cohen as a "lovely man who will be remembered fondly by everyone at Liverpool who knew him".

"He was well liked by all the lads and although he didn't spend a long time at the club, he certainly left his mark and no-one will forget how he helped us win the league against Aston Villa," Dalglish told Liverpool's website.

Meanwhile, Ally McCoist, assistant manager of Rangers, said he was "shattered" by the news.

"I can still see his smile and his laugh, he was just a diamond of a guy. All our thoughts are currently with his family who must be absolutely devastated right now," he told Rangers' website.

West Ham manager and fellow Israeli, Avram Grant, said of Avi Cohen on Sky Sports 1 television: "I know him personally, he was a great man, a great player and my sympathy is with his family."

Avi Cohen was one of Israel's best-known players in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

He made 24 appearances for Liverpool, scoring one goal in the match against Aston Villa which secured the team the 1979-80 league title.

Avi Cohen began his playing career with Maccabi Tel Aviv before joining Liverpool, then returned to Maccabi. He briefly played at Glasgow Rangers before ending his career with Maccabi Netanya.

He captained his country and was chairman of the Israeli Professional Footballers Association for the past eight years. He was also a regular local radio and television pundit.

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