Bibi with U-21 national team 370.
(photo credit: Emil Salman/Courtesy)
The Israel Under-21 national team took a short break from its hectic training
schedule on Monday to meet with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in
The team presented Netanyahu with a jersey with his name on it
and an autographed ball and the Prime Minister spoke of his excitement ahead of
the start of the European Championship in Netanya on Wednesday.
with all Israelis, I am excited. I watch football and sometimes play and this
has a price at my age. It is pure enjoyment and a great love.”
achievement of the tournament is that it is happening in the State of Israel,”
said Netanyahu. “I am pleased by UEFA President Michel Platini’s strong stand
that the tournament take place here.”
Israel hosts Norway in the first
match of the 14-day tournament on Wednesday before facing Italy at Bloomfield
Stadium three days later. The blue and white will complete its Group A games
versus England at Teddy Stadium on June 11.
Group B will be contested
between defending champion Spain, Germany, Netherlands and Russia.
top two teams from each group will advance to the semifinals to be played on
June 15, with the final to take place at Teddy on June 18.
Of the 250,000
tickets released for sale, 176,000 have already been bought, with four matches
sold-out. There are no longer any tickets available for Israel’s opener against
Norway as well as its match against Italy, with Spain’s encounters with Germany
and the Netherlands also already guaranteed to be played in front of packed
After Germany and England arrived on Sunday, defending champion
Spain will be the final team to land in Israel on Monday.
“I thank Prime
Minister Netanyahu for the understanding that this tournament is of national
importance and will greatly help the State of Israel’s public diplomacy overseas
by showing a beautiful Israel that loves sports,” said Israel Football
Association chairman Avi Luzon.
“On paper, our team has no chance, but
soccer is the greatest sport because the better team on paper doesn’t always
Heart and soul on a given day can make the difference.”