Soccer Star Berkovic: I Was Subjected to anti-Semitic Taunts

Haaretz Service
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Haaretz Service

Israel soccer international Eyal Berkovic, who found himself in the center of a storm over his alleged response to the taunts of a female spectator, claimed Friday that he was provoked into making the 'cut-throat' gesture at Manchester City's 3-2 Worthington Cup win over Crewe Alexandra on Tuesday.

The controversial incident earlier this week made back-page headlines in Britain, with the mass-circulation Sun newspaper carrying a photograph showing Berkovic pointing to his throat and apparently shouting at the supporter. As he sat there complaining, the report said that a spectator shouted to him "get up, you're a professional." This led Berkovic to walk toward the supporter and make his threatening gesture.

Responding to the article in Friday's Daily Mirror, Berkovic claimed that he was the victim of racial abuse, and that he had been provoked into making gesture. The former Maccabi Haifa, West Ham and Celtic midfielder told close friends he was subjected to anti-Jewish abuse during the match.

The Sun described the course of events during the early stages of the match in which Berkovic lay on the ground in the area, protesting the fact that the referee had not awarded a penalty after he had been fouled.

While a Manchester City official said that the incident was being investigated, last night it looked as if no action would be taken, as no spectator had come forward to make a complaint against the volatile Israeli.

The English Football Association confirmed that it will probe the incident.

"Eyal Berkovic is to be investigated following Tuesday night's match between Manchester City and Crewe at Maine Road and an alleged incident involving the Manchester City player," the FA said in a statement Friday.

"We can confirm that we are aware of these reports and are studying reports from the game and are investigating the matter further."

While reports Thursday claimed that there had been racial abuse against Berkovic, Chris Bailey of the Manchester Evening News said that there was no evidence to support this allegation.

"As far as we know there were no anti-Semitic comments against Berkovic," Bailey said. "City was playing badly and was 1-0 down before Eyal was fouled and he was angry that he was not awarded a penalty. Somebody shouted at him `get up, you're a professional' and he was incensed, which is why he made that gesture toward the supporter," the reporter continued.

The Sun, which played up the story, appealed for the supporter who was threatened or any witnesses to come forward as it described the incident in detail under the headline "You're vile Eyal."