Israeli soccer icon Avi Cohen declared brain dead

Former Liverpool star Avi Cohen, the first Israeli to play in England, has been in a coma for the past eight days and the 54-year-old has been declared brain dead, his son said on Tuesday.

Speaking to reporters at Tel Aviv's Ichilov Hospital, Tamir Cohen, himself a midfielder for Bolton Wanderers, thanked Israelis for their support and prayers since his father went into a coma as a result of head injuries suffered in a December 20 motorcycle accident in Tel Aviv.

"To our regret the health ministry committee at the hospital has ruled that dad has suffered brain death, which is to say that dad is dead," he said.

Local media said that the 51-times capped Cohen's heart was kept beating artificially.

The Jerusalem Post quoted hospital officials as saying the family now had the options of disconnecting life support equipment, ending other essential treatment and possibly donating his organs or continuing with the life support until his heart ceases to function.

Cohen was born in Cairo, Egypt in November 1956 and emigrated to Israel as a youngster.

He began his career with Maccabi Tel Aviv in 1975 and shortly afterwards was called-up to Israel's national squad, where he gained international exposure.

Cohen made Israeli football history in 1979 when he was signed by the then dominant side in England Liverpool, but he never established himself as first choice and returned to Israel two years later.

Liverpool great Kenny Dalglish, who played alongside Cohen at Anfield and was in the team when the Israel left-back scored the goal that won the Reds the English title in 1980, paid a handsome tribute.

"Avi was a lovely man who will be remembered fondly by everyone at Liverpool who knew him.

"He was well liked by all the lads and although he didn't spend a long time at the club, he certainly left his mark and no-one will forget how he helped us win the league against Aston Villa," Dalglish said.

He got a second chance at British football in 1987 when he was signed for Scottish giants Rangers by former clubmate Graeme Souness but again it failed to work out.

After another spell with Maccabi he retired from playing in 1990 and moved into coaching and sports broadcasting, as well as becoming chairman of the Israel Professional Footballers' Association.