Members of Israel's national soccer squad..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel will host Bosnia as planned in Haifa in Euro 2016 qualifying in November after UEFA lifted its ban barring the staging of soccer matches in the country on Thursday.
Since the start of Operation Protective Edge on July 8, Israel’s national teams and clubs have been forced to play their home matches abroad due to the security situation.
As a result, the Israel national team postponed its Euro 2016 qualifying opener against Belgium from September 9 to March 31, 2015 so it wouldn’t need to host the match in Cyprus the way Israeli clubs had to in the Champions League and Europa League qualifiers.
Israel will open its Euro 2016 qualifying campaign at Cyprus on October 10 before visiting Andorra four days later.
The blue-and-white’s first home match will be versus Bosnia on November 16 at the new Sammy Ofer Stadium in Haifa. Coach Eli Gutman’s side will also host its next two qualifiers against Wales on March 28 in Haifa and Belgium three days later at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem.
“This ban has been lifted due to the improved situation in Israel,” UEFA secretary general Gianni Infantino said on Thursday.
The ban had an obvious adverse effect on the results of Israeli clubs in European competitions this season.
Maccabi Tel Aviv, Hapoel Tel Aviv, Hapoel Beersheba and Ironi Kiryat Shmona combined for the worst showing by Israeli clubs in continental competitions since the 2008/09 season, which was also the last time no local side managed to make it through to a group stage.
“I promised that the matches would return to Israel and I’m happy that it happened,” said former Israel Football Association chairman and current UEFA Executive Committee member Avi Luzon. “The fans will now be able to support the national team in Euro 2016 qualifying and show how important and necessary it is to play our home matches in Israel.”