Ironi Kiryat Shmona’s Europa League match against Athletic Bilbao originally
scheduled to be played in Haifa on Thursday was postponed by a week on Wednesday
due to the security situation in Israel.
Bilbao had asked UEFA earlier
this week to put off the encounter due to the ongoing rocket fire from Gaza, but
was told by European soccer’s governing body that the game would go ahead as
However, shortly before embarking for Israel, the Spaniards
heard of the bus explosion in Tel Aviv and following further discussions with
UEFA and between UEFA President Michel Platini and Israel Football Association
chairman Avi Luzon, a decision was made to reschedule the game for November
UEFA cited “the tense security situation in the region” for
postponing the match and Bilbao president, Josu Urrutia, explained that his team
could not travel to Israel as “no one could guarantee its safety”.
learned of the attack while we were at the airport, just before we got on the
plane,” he said.
“We thought the truce could occur soon, but right now no
one can guarantee security.” Kiryat Shmona coach Barak Bachar empathized with
“We can’t have any complaints towards Bilbao,” he said. “We are
slightly disappointed, but we accept it.
“You can understand their
“I don’t think that the bus bombing in Tel Aviv is a reason to
postpone the match, but we want teams to come to Israel and leave with a
positive impression of the country and not a feeling of fear and
Luzon paid tribute to UEFA for not moving the match abroad, as well
as not relocating next week’s draw for the European Under-21
“I would like to thank the heads of UEFA, and particularly
President Michal Platini, General Secretary Gianni Infantino and deputy general
secretary Theodore Theodoridis for showing faith in the State of Israel and in
Israeli soccer,” said Luzon.
“All other activities scheduled for next
week, including the draw for the European Under-21 Championships, will go ahead
The draw will be held at the Hilton Hotel in Tel Aviv next
Wednesday, with the tournament set to take place in Israel from June 5-18, 2013
at four venues: Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Netanya and Petah Tikva.
Mail reported on Wednesday that UEFA would consider asking England to be on
stand-by to host the championships if the “Israel crisis escalates”.
IFA rejected any such suggestion.
“IFA chairman Avi Luzon is currently
holding meetings at UEFA headquarters and has spoken with President Michel
Platini and other senior officials.
“Therefore we can announce beyond any
doubt that there is no truth to the rumors and that UEFA never considered
relocating the tournament to another country,” an IFA press release
There will be one Israeli team in action in the Europa League on
Thursday, with Hapoel Tel Aviv visiting Atletico Madrid.
With just a
single point from four matches, Hapoel has lost any chance of progressing, while
the Spanish powerhouse can secure its place in the Round of 32 with a
With the match in Spain essentially meaningless for Hapoel, all of
the talk ahead of Thursday’s game was regarding the sacking of assistant coach
Shavit Elimelech on Monday.
The former Hapoel goalkeeper returned to the
club as Nitzan Shirazi’s assistant, but his days with the Reds always seemed
numbered after Shirazi took a medical leave of absence in late September and was
replaced by Yossi Abuksis.
Elimelech and Abuksis have a strained
relationship from their days as teammates, but the latter denied that he fired
his assistant for that reason.
“A coach has a right to pick his staff,”
“I didn’t pick this staff because I arrived in the middle
of the season, so I gave it some time and saw that it wasn’t working.
haven’t got a bad word to say about him. This isn’t personal. This is a
completely professional decision.”