Ex-footballer Regrets Kicking Israeli Star in Face

John Hartson says the incident in which he kicked Eyal Berkovic during training was the biggest regret of his career.

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John Hartson, right, in 2013, when he was assistant manager of Wales.
John Hartson, right, in 2013, when he was assistant manager of Wales.Credit: Screenshot

Former Welsh striker John Hartson has told the BBC that kicking team-mate Eyal Berkovic in the face during training in 1998 was the biggest regret of his career.

Israeli Berkovic made 78 appearances for the Israeli national team and was highly regarded for his pin-point passing. At the time of the incident both Hartson and Berkovic played for West Ham united.

The kick, which came after Berkovic had punched Hartson in the leg as he attempted to help the Israeli player to his feet after a crunching tackle, was filmed by a video crew and made national headlines.

Hartson was fined £20,000 (121,000 shekels) for the incident and suspended for three games. Berkovic reportedly said later that "if my head had been a ball, it would have been in the top corner of the net."

"I brought a lot of embarrassment on my family, I felt ashamed," Hartson told BBC Radio 5 live's Inside the Dressing Room program this week.

"Even today it is the biggest regret of my career," he said. "I was 20 years of age. I was very boisterous, probably a little bit angry. I'd left Arsenal in 1997 and they went on to win the double in 1998.

"Eyal Berkovic was a good lad and to this day I don't know why I reacted the way I did. It was nothing personal against Eyal. It could have been anyone of the players on the training ground that day."

He added that he has since made up with Berkovic.

Hartson retired in 2007 after playing more than 500 games for eight different clubs and scoring more than 200 goals during a 15-year career.

He is currently in remission from cancer, which was diagnosed in 2009.

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