Maccabi TA soccer 248.88.
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
After a three-week winter break and a one week postponement due to the security situation in the South, Israel's top three soccer divisions will return to action this coming weekend.
In a special secretariat meeting at Israel Football Association headquarters at National Stadium in Ramat Gan on Tuesday, the IFA unanimously decided to renew play in Israel's professional leagues, but not in the bottom three divisions and in the youth leagues.
"We feel that after a week's postponement it is time to go back and play," IFA chairman Avi Luzon said. "We can't let our enemies completely disrupt the game we all love so much and which acts as a refuge for so many of us.
"We are aware of the fact that this is a highly charged decision and that it will invoke many emotions and responses. It's important to remember that this is a very complex decision, which was effected by many different considerations. We will continue to monitor the situation in the south and will update the decision accordingly."
Despite the IFA's ruling, matches scheduled to be played within 40 kilometers of Gaza and games involving Arab and Jewish clubs to be hosted by Arab sides in the police's northern district are not permitted to be played under police orders.
The IFA announced that it will provide stadiums free of charge for any team not able to host at home, but Bnei Sakhnin was outraged by the decision and has threatened not to show up for Saturday's match against Hakoach Amidar Ramat Gan.
"We won't agree to play the game away from home," Sakhnin chairman Hassan Abu Saleh said. "The match will only be played in Sakhnin and if the IFA has got a problem with that then it should postpone the encounter by two or three weeks until the situation in the South settles. This is our home stadium and if the decision isn't changed we won't show up for the match."
Luzon wasn't impressed by Sakhnin's threats. "I respect Sakhnin a lot, but according to the rules if a team deliberately doesn't show up for a match it can be relegated. I understand that this isn't a comfortable situation, but we had no other option. We had to take many considerations into account."
Saleh wasn't intimidated by Luzon's response. "Luzon doesn't scare us. We're a legitimate Premier League club. The team is training as usual and there's no danger of anybody getting hurt. There's police in Sakhnin and there's no reason to move the match."