Int'l Soccer: Melikson opts to play for Poland

Israeli midfielder Maor Melikson announced on Wednesday that he has decided to play for the Poland national team.

Maor Melikson 311 (photo credit: REUTERS/Kacper Pempel )
Maor Melikson 311
(photo credit: REUTERS/Kacper Pempel )
Israeli midfielder Maor Melikson announced on Wednesday that he has decided to play for the Poland national team.
Despite already making two appearances for Israel, the 26- year-old Yavne native, who holds a Polish passport and has been playing for Wisla Krakow since January, declared that he wants to instead represent Poland, the co-host of Euro 2012 with Ukraine.
According to FIFA regulations a player can change his allegiance to another country as long as he has not made an appearance in a competitive match.
Melikson took part in Israel’s friendly matches against Uruguay last May and against the Ivory Coast just last month, scoring two goals.
However, he wasn’t involved in any of the national team’s Euro 2012 qualifiers, allowing him to announce his availability to be called up by Poland.
“This was the toughest decision of my life,” said Melikson, who began his senior career at Betar Jerusalem before also playing for Maccabi Haifa, Hapoel Kfar Saba and Hapoel Beersheba.
“No Israeli soccer player has ever been in my situation before so no one knows what I’ve been through.
“I’m an Israeli and nothing will change that. I’m more Israeli than all those people who are criticizing me and more than all of those who are suddenly speaking of me as if I was a leading player for Israel.
“I waited for my chance for many years but it never arrived. It was my dream to play for Israel, but when the dream ends reality enters and so do rational considerations.
“It’s a huge honor that a national team like Poland wants me to play for it.” Melikson, who has Polish citizenship as his mother was born in the country, has come under increased pressure by the Poles to play for their national team following his impressive performances for Wisla.
“I have been observing Maor for a few months. I like the way he plays. He just has to make it clear that he wants to play for Poland and the door will be open,” hinted Poland coach Franciszek Smuda.
The Israel Football Association did its best not to criticize Melikson for his decision, but it hinted that there is no truth to his complaints that he was not given a chance by the blueand- white.
“Maor Melikson has matured and grown in confidence since he moved to Poland,” Israel coach Luis Fernandez said. “He was called up to the qualifier against Latvia, but was injured in a Wisla match. He played against the Ivory Coast and scored two goals. His form was very impressive and he was called up for the qualifiers against Greece and Malta and was even supposed to be in the starting lineup, but he got injured in training.
“Maor is an excellent player and every time he was fit he was called up to the national team.”