The Last Word: At last UEFA has seen sense

It has been totally out of order to force club sides as well as the national team to play outside of Israel.

September 18, 2006 07:56
2 minute read.
The Last Word: At last UEFA has seen sense

jeremy last 88. (photo credit: )

Finally the men in power at UEFA have come to their senses. Just over a month after the ceasefire between Israel and Hizbullah came into effect, European soccer's governing body realized there was no reason to ban Israel from hosting European-level matches in the country. Looking back over the last month it is difficult to understand why it took so long. Israel was not allowed to host these games even though the war was over. It was one thing when there was a war going on with Hizbullah and the Lebanese group's leader Hassan Nasrallah continually threatened to send missiles into Tel Aviv. However annoying it was to hear Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez going on about how crazy it would be to let his players travel to Israel, he had some sort of a point. Even though Tel Aviv had not been attacked and the south of the country felt completely safe, there was a threat there. But for the last month there has been no threat and it has been totally out of order for UEFA to force four Israeli club sides as well as the national team to play outside of Israel. It was lucky for Israel that it was the home game against Andorra, the weakest team in it's Euro 2008 qualifying group, that was played in Holland. How much more difficult would it have been to face Russia, Croatia or England in front of hardly any fans away from home. The whole idea of home advantage is that the game is played in the comfort of your own stadium in front of your own fans. Betar Jerusalem and Bnei Yehuda were not so lucky. After difficult first legs, both these Israeli teams lost the opportunity to play the second leg of their UEFA Cup games in front of their own supporters, and were subsequently knocked out of the competition without having even hosted a game. Maccabi Haifa, which was beaten by Liverpool before the war even finished on August 14, drew 1-1 with Bulgarian side Litex Lovech in Holland in the UEFA Cup last week, in a game it would much rather had played at Ramat Gan or Bloomfield if it was unable to host at Kiryat Eliezer. And Hapoel Tel Aviv will be breathing a sigh of relief after the decision meant it's second leg against Chornomorets Odessa will be held in Tel Aviv on September 28. Despite all the nuances of the situations of each team, the fact is that Israel was treated unfairly and different to any other country in a similar situation. No one was calling for Turkish teams to play their games abroad even though terrorists bombed resorts in Turkey last month and threatened more attacks. It appeared that no UEFA representative had even travelled to Israel to see what the situation actually was on the ground. If they had done, the representative would have seen that soccer is alive and well in this country it and it was absurd to force the Israelis suffer the difficulty and embarrassment of playing outisde of their country when there was no more security threat than there was before the war started. Whether sports minister Ophir Paz-Pines was right to claim the UEFA upper echelons were simply anti-Semitic is anyones guess. But the situation definitely smells dodgy. The worrying thing is that it is UEFA who has the power, and has already said it reserves the right to impose the ban again if it "considers there has been a deterioration in the security situation". Lets hope the organization analyses the situation realisticaly and fairly next time. [email protected]

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