Refurbished Bloomfield takes center stage

Maccabi Tel Aviv hosts Bnei Yehuda • Haifa squads square off • Beitar visits Ra’anana • National team preps for qualifiers.

By JOSHUA HALICKMAN
August 30, 2019 07:15
4 minute read.
THE NEWLY renovated Bloomfield Stadium is now fully operational and the home to Tel Aviv's three top

THE NEWLY renovated Bloomfield Stadium is now fully operational and the home to Tel Aviv's three top-tier soccer teams, two of which - Maccabi Tel Aviv and Bnei Yehuda - will be facing off against one another in Premier League action on Sunday. (photo credit: UDI ZITIAT)

This past Sunday night saw Bnei Yehuda and Ironi Kiryat Shmona open up the brand new Bloomfield Stadium in Tel Aviv after three seasons of playing on the road so to speak.

With the close of the 2015/16 season, the old 14,000-seat stadium was torn down making way for a state-of-the-art 29,000-seat facility. Featuring 10 tiers of seating, 32 entrances, four dressing rooms and plenty of access for the physically challenged, the new stadium is certainly the pearl of the city.

Along with Bnei Yehuda, Hapoel Tel Aviv and Maccabi Tel Aviv have also moved back into Bloomfield after having spent the last three campaigns at the Moshava Stadium in Petah Tikva and the Netanya Stadium, respectively, and all three sides are excited to be back home. The Reds welcomed 19,000 fans to their inaugural match at the stadium last week, which resulted in a goalless draw against Maccabi Netanya.

Following the game, Hapoel Tel Aviv striker Shahar Hirsch expressed his joy on returning to Bloomfield.

“This is the Israeli cathedral of football and there is always a great atmosphere here,” exclaimed Hirsch. “I waited for three long seasons to return to this environment.”

The yellow-and-blue will play their first match at the new stadium on Sunday night against city rival Bnei Yehuda. With close to 20,000 season ticket holders, Maccabi has doubled the number of subscribers from previous campaigns and almost every one of its home contests this coming season will be sold out.

In the future, the Israel national team will feature at the stadium while the facility will also host many concerts and other events to the delight of Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, who pushed to ensure the stadium would be completed in time for the 2019/20 season.

Speaking of the national team, the blue-and-white will be playing in 2020 European Championship qualifying action in Beersheba on Thursday night when it hosts North Macedonia at Turner Stadium, and then again the following Monday when it visits Slovenia in Ljubljana.

Israel will look to improve on its record of two wins, a draw and a loss with the likes of star striker Eran Zahavi, who leads the entire competition with seven goals so far this campaign. Captain Bibras Natkho, who recently signed with Serbian powerhouse Partizan Belgrade, along with Shakhtar Donetsk starlet Manor Solomon and Dia Saba, will be counted on as well by the Sabra faithful.

Coach Andreas Herzog will look to get back onto the winning track after falling 4-0 to Poland in June. Israel has won three of its last four games against Macedonia, but fell 1-0 on a lone goal by veteran marksman Goran Pandev the last time the two met in World Cup qualifying back in September of 2017.

In the second qualifying match this window, the blue-and-white will look to win its first ever game against Slovenia, as it sports a record of three draws and one loss against the Balkan squad, with the most recent result a 1-1 affair to kick off Euro qualifying this past March in Haifa.

Meanwhile, Round 2 of the Israel Premier League is littered with fantastic contests, beginning with the Haifa derby on Saturday night as Hapoel hosts Maccabi in what should be an electric matchup at a packed Sammy Ofer Stadium.

Both sides are coming off victories in their opening games and will battle it out for Carmel supremacy early in the season.

Tjaronn Chery, who sparked the Greens off of the bench last week in their pulsating 4-3 win over Hapoel Ra’anana, will surely want to put on an equally dynamic display against Haim Silvas’s squad, which will look to send its fans home happy in one of the most anticipated clashes of the season.

Also on Saturday, Maccabi Netanya will host top-tier newcomer Ness Ziona as both teams search for their first goal of the season at the Netanya Stadium while Ashdod SC will welcome Hapoel Tel Aviv to the Yud Alef Stadium in the port city with each side looking for its maiden win of the campaign.

Maccabi Tel Aviv will be front and center on Sunday evening, as the yellow-and-blue open up its home schedule at the new-look Bloomfield Stadium when it hosts Yossi Abuksis’s Bnei Yehuda.

Vladimir Ivic’s Maccabi side will want to demonstrate its quality after recording an unconvincing victory over Ness Ziona in its opening match, while State Cup holder Bnei Yehuda will attempt to win its second league game at the refurbished facility.

Elsewhere, Beitar Jerusalem visits Hapoel Ra’anana at the Moshava Stadium on Sunday, and Roni Levy’s charges will look to convert the many chances they had last week against Hapoel Beersheba into goals.

Beersheba will welcome Hapoel Hadera to Turner Stadium after having just hosted Feyenoord in Europa League Playoff Round qualifying action late Thursday night.

The final contest of the round will feature Hapoel Kfar Saba at Kiryat Shmona, as the Northern squad will look to brush off last week’s dramatic loss to Bnei Yehuda.

Joshua Halickman, the Sports Rabbi, covers Israeli sports and organizes Israel sports adventures for tourists and residents (www.sportsrabbi.com). Follow the Sports Rabbi on Twitter @thesportsrabbi or feel free to contact the Sports Rabbi at sportsrabbi9@gmail.com.


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