The Israel Football Association's highest tribunal decided yesterday to lighten a penalty imposed on Maccabi Tel Aviv midfielder Eyal Berkovic.
Berkovic will be able to suit up in his team's upcoming game against Bnei Sakhnin; but in the event that he plays next season, he will have to sit out two more games to complete the penalty.
Tribunal president retired judge Yehoshua Gelbart, together with Ben Zion Cohen and attorney Ruth Litvack, decided to respond to Berkovic's request for a lighter sentence. The judges agreed that since this is the player's final season, as he mentioned in his appeal, he will be able to play in the upcoming round. Only if Berkovic changes his mind and does not retire next year will he have to sit out the two additional games.
Accompanied by his father and Maccabi manager Avner Tevito, Berkovic repeated at yesterday's hearing his request for a lighter sentence, given that he will be retiring at the end of this season. Berkovic expressed satisfaction following the tribunal's decision.
IFA prosecutor attorney Shalom Even Ezra was unhappy with the decision. He strongly defended the decision to ban Berkovic for six games, adding that there is no place to be lenient in this case.
"With all respect to Berkovic, the judges took him into consideration, but they did not come out looking like suckers," a legal figure said after the hearing. "Berkovic can say he's retiring, but he can't guarantee that this will be his last season. Therefore, the judges left the penalty, but split it."