Avi Cohen, Israel's first international soccer star to play in England's top flight league, passed away in a Tel Aviv hospital Wednesday, after succumbing to injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident last week. He was 54.
Cohen had been riding his motorcycle in Ramat Gan when he was reportedly hit by a car. He was taken to Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv, where he underwent immediate surgery and was placed in intensive care. He had been in a coma since the accident.
Cohen is considered one of the greatest Israeli soccer players of all time. Born in Cairo, he began his career with Maccabi Tel Aviv in 1975. Within a year, he was a regular member of the Israeli national team. He quickly caught the eye of several clubs, including Liverpool, which, at the time, was the dominant force in English soccer.
In 1979, he joined the Reds for a fee of $450,000, becoming the first Israeli to play for an English team.
Cohen's greatest moment in a Liverpool shirt came on September 25, 1979, when he was selected in the starting 11 for his team's game against Aston Villa. The Reds, who were reigning league champions at the time, needed to win a win to retain their title - and things looked to be going according to plan when they took an early lead. Just before half time, however, Cohen scored an own goal to level the score.
But five minutes after the restart, he made amends by scoring his side's second goal. Liverpool went on to win 4-1 and the championship remained on Merseyside.
The next season - his last in England - Cohen was part of the Liverpool squad that won the European Cup, before returning to Maccabi Tel Aviv.
After a brief period in Scotland, where he played 15 games for the Glasgow Rangers, Cohen returned to Maccabi for a third spell, before retiring as a player in 1990. He has since coached six teams and, for the past five years, been chairman of the Israel Professional Footballers Association.
Cohen's son, Tamir Cohen, is a midfielder for the Bolton Wanderers in northern England. He flew back to Israel after the accident to be by his father's bedside.
Dozens of Liverpool fans paid tribute to Cohen on the club's website, many of them recalling his two-goal performance in September 1979. "YNWA," many of the tributes read, quoting Liverpool's famous anthem, You'll Never Walk Alone.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now