Berkovic makes passionate plea to Israel

JERUSALEM - Former Israel midfielder Eyal Berkovic pleaded his cause to be appointed the next national team coach in a fiery speech in Tel Aviv on Wednesday.

Berkovic, who lacks any coaching pedigree and is never one to mince words, said he should be the man Israeli FA chairman Avi Luzon chooses, rather than the declared preference of a foreign coach.

"I set myself a target five months ago, to be the national team coach of Israel and I am going to see it through to the finish, it won't help anybody - I will be the coach of Israel," the 37-year-old told a news conference in an excited voice.

Israel, whose only major international success came when they qualified for the 1970 World Cup finals in Mexico, have experienced repeated disappointments.

Outgoing coach Dror Kashtan was appointed in 2006 and is Israel's most successful coach at club level but he failed to lead the national team to Euro 2008 and this year's World Cup finals in South Africa.

Israeli newspapers have said Berkovic would be the players's preferred choice for coach, but recent reports also named Italian Roberto Donadoni, Dutchman Ronald Koeman and Turkish coach Fatih Terim as possible candidates.

Reports say a foreign coach could cost the Israeli FA between $1-2 million per season. This has raised criticism in a country where football salaries, although relatively high, are only a fraction of those in major sporting countries.

"The IFA have set aside 20 million shekels, that is about 4 million euro for a foreign coach. The entire coaching staff should cost no more than 10 percent of that," Berkovic said.

Despite his lack of coaching experience, Berkovic listed the attributes he thought could bring him success:

"I have everything: clever playing, inspiration, freshness, chutzpah, attacking play, sexy football, interaction with the players; nobody understands them more than me...the only thing I don't have is experience as a coach.

"I have never been a coach but we have seen all those with experience... so all those fables about experience (are invalid), there are no rules in football."

Berkovic, who played in Britain for Southampton, West Ham, Celtic, Blackburn, Manchester City and Portsmouth, retired in 2006.

He said he had received much public support and was constantly stopped in the street by people wishing him luck and hoping he would be appointed.

"I am not ashamed to say that I want to be the national team coach... The whole country wants me. No, actually only about 90 percent," he said.