Case said likely to be closed due to 'no criminal elements'

Soccer players suspected of statutory rape named as Omer Atzili, Dor Micha

Maccabi Tel Aviv members, who have both played for national team, say they no longer want to ‘hide behind gag order’ after being questioned, suspended for underage sex allegations

Maccabi Tel Aviv's Dor Micha controls the ball during a Europa League soccer match against Villarreal at the Ceramica stadium in Villarreal, Spain, December 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Alberto Saiz)
Maccabi Tel Aviv's Dor Micha controls the ball during a Europa League soccer match against Villarreal at the Ceramica stadium in Villarreal, Spain, December 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Alberto Saiz)

Two top Israeli soccer players suspected of committing statutory rape by having sex with two underage girls were publicly named Monday as Omer Atzili and Dor Micha.

Atzili, a 26-year-old winger, and Micha, a 28-year-old midfielder, both play for the country’s top squad, Maccabi Tel Aviv, and have also played for the national team.

They have been embroiled in the scandal since last month and have been temporarily suspended from playing for Maccabi, which said last month that the allegations were “serious” and that it would follow the investigation closely before deciding on any further action.

The scandal rocked the Israeli soccer world just as it was beginning to get back to playing games following a two-month hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.

However, Channel 12 reported Monday that the case was likely to be closed without charges filed. The report said police on Monday morning handed all the investigation material to state prosecutors with a recommendation to close the case.

“This case raises significant moral and ethical questions, but it doesn’t have criminal elements,” the report quoted an unnamed source with knowledge of the investigation as saying.

Atzili’s and Micha’s names had thus far been barred from publication by a court order, but the pair decided not to fight for the extension of the gag order.

“We are choosing not to hide behind gag orders,” they said in a joint statement.

The decision by the Central District Court in Lod came as many fans and observers had little doubt regarding the identity of the players involved, since their names had been published online and Atzili and Micha had not taken part in Maccabi’s recent matches.

The court on Sunday decided to publish their names, but the players’ attorneys requested an extension in order to file an appeal with the Supreme Court. That request was dropped Monday.

Atzili and Micha were grilled by police investigators for over four hours last month after Maccabi Tel Aviv received a complaint the players had sex with girls who were younger than 16 years old, the age of consent in Israel. The high school where the girls study also reportedly received the complaint.

The players said they met the girls at a party hosted by another Israeli Premier League player, where they exchanged numbers. They later met at the house of one of the players, where they had sex, Hebrew-language reports said at the time.

The two players told police that they did not know the girls were underage and gave authorities access to their cellphones to view text messages between them and the girls. Associates of the players previously told the Haaretz daily the girls presented themselves as 17, adding they have text messages proving this.

Illustrative: A Maccabi Tel Aviv player, in white, dribbles the ball between opposing players during a match against Beitar Jerusalem in Jerusalem on June 8, 2020. (Flash90)

Police also took testimony from one of the accusers, but the second girl canceled her planned meeting with police because she did not feel well, her attorney told the Haaretz daily.

“This is a 15-year-old girl who has undergone terrible shaming, including slurs, curses and threats online,” attorney Sassi Gez told the paper. “She feels like the two players took advantage of her. There’s no 15-year-old girl who is ready to sleep with two guys in the course of half an hour. She went to the apartment with stardust in her eyes and left as just dust.”

One of the girls has denied they lied about their age.

“They’re lying. We never said we’re 18 and we weren’t asked our ages,” she told Channel 12 news last month. “The soccer players knew we were high school students. I’m really hurt. I understand I was taken advantage of.”

The punishment in Israel for statutory rape of a minor between 14 and 16 years of age is up to five years in prison.

read more:
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed