IFA irked after Norway-Israel friendly called off close to kickoff

Blue-and-white already in Oslo when hosts cancel match • Focus now turns to National League duels with Czechs, Scots.

ISRAEL NATIONAL TEAM coach Willi Ruttensteiner and his players travelled to Norway before Wednesday's international friendly was cancelled at the last minute. They have upcoming League contests against the Czech Republic (on Sunday) Scotland (photo credit: REUTERS)
ISRAEL NATIONAL TEAM coach Willi Ruttensteiner and his players travelled to Norway before Wednesday's international friendly was cancelled at the last minute. They have upcoming League contests against the Czech Republic (on Sunday) Scotland
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Wednesday’s scheduled soccer match between Norway and Israel was called off just a few hours before it was set to kick off, with the Norwegian Football Federation saying in a statement that it was due to a risk of coronavirus infections after Israeli forward Mounas Dabur received results of a positive COVID-19 test.
However the Israel Football Association voiced internal suspicions that Norway called off the contest because it wanted to rest ahead of upcoming Nations League matches and used Dabur’s test as an excuse.
Norway’s Directorate of Public Health, which originally gave the go-ahead for the friendly, on Wednesday recommended that the game should be called off, the NFF said.
IFA CEO Rotem Kemer was initially informed by his Norwegian counterpart him that the game would not take place due to a decision of the authorities. But not long after, news emerged that the plan was changed for fear that the local players would be infected after Dabur’s medical status was announced.
The IFA seemed especially annoyed that the blue-and-white players and staff had already flown to Oslo when the decision not to play the match could have happened earlier in the week. Norway has two crucial Nations League games next week – against Romania and Austria – and though no official statement was made, the Israeli federation seems to think the hosts used COVID-19 to legitimize their decision to cancel the friendly.
Aside from financial implications – Norway will likely compensate Israel about 70,000 euros for flight and hotel expenses – the blue-and-white also has two Nations League games next week, against the Czech Republic on Sunday and vs Scotland on Wednesday, and didn’t need the hassle of a pointless trip.
In somewhat related news, Netherlands coach Frank de Boer questioned the need for international friendlies in an already congested calendar after losing two players – Nathan Ake and Hans Hateboer – to injuries in his side’s 1-1 draw at home to Spain on Wednesday.
“I don't think this game needed to be played,” De Boer told a news conference. “Money is very important but we also need to look after our players. All interested parties need to sit down and talk because the health of our players is important. We all agree about that, and decisions need to be made.”
Reuters contributed to this report.


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