yossi benayoun 248.88 .
(photo credit: AP)
Amid fears that tens of thousands of fans will stay away from National Stadium in Ramat Gan for Israel's 2010 World Cup qualifier against Latvia on Saturday, Israel captain Yossi Benayoun has urged Israelis to support the team even though its qualifying campaign has not gone as planned.
The Israel Football Association has resorted to giving away tickets to charitable organizations in recent days in the hope that Ramat Gan will be at least half-full on Saturday, as only several thousand have been sold to date.
A disappointing campaign has resulted in widespread apathy among local fans and Benayoun called on Israelis to back Israel even though the team has little chance of reaching a first World Cup in 40 years.
"There isn't that much interest in this match and that is understandable," the Liverpool midfielder said on Wednesday.
"We hope that as many fans as possible attend the match as the team needs to be supported in the bad times as well as the good. The national team should be loved not only when it does well, but also when it fails."
Israel's hopes of playing in South Africa suffered a fatal blow earlier this year when it only managed to collect a single point from two qualifiers against Greece.
The national team, which climbed on Wednesday three places to number 22 in the FIFA rankings, is currently fourth in Group 2 with nine points from six games, trailing joint leaders Greece and Switzerland and third placed Latvia.
"We understand that the fans are disappointed with the results, but no one is more disappointed than us," Benayoun added.
"We believed we would do better, but it wasn't to be."