Jerusalem (AFP) – Israel will face Italy on Tuesday in a World Cup qualifier without their captain Eran Zahavi, who has decided to end his international career after being angered by booing from the home crowd.
Zahavi was left fuming on Saturday by fans in Haifa who started booing when Macedonia scored the only goal of a shock victory in a World Cup qualifier.
In response, Zahavi threw his captain’s armband to the ground, prompting Israel’s federation to suspend him for an undetermined period.
Zahavi, who plays professionally for China’s Guangzhou R&F, has decided to withdraw from the national team at the age of 30 and after 39 appearances.
“I can’t stand it anymore,” he told Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth.
“We are in a country that doesn’t know how to honour its great athletes, so I prefer to leave. It’s unbelievable that the fans boo their team. That doesn’t happen anywhere else in the world.
“I didn’t want to react like I did, but I imploded.”
Sports Minister Miri Regev accused him of having “trampled on the values that we are trying to teach to future generations”.
Zahavi, who has twice been Israeli player of the year and three times the top goal scorer in the country’s premier league, has never seen the same success with the national team.
Guangzhou R&F paid $8 million to recruit the former Maccabi Tel Aviv, Hapoel Tel Aviv and Palermo player.
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