Argentinian giant Boca Juniors in Israel

South Americans to play Maccabi Tel Aviv in friendly match on Thursday, celebrating Maccabi's 100th anniversary.

maccabi TA 88 (photo credit: )
maccabi TA 88
(photo credit: )
Argentinean giant Boca Juniors arrived in Israel on Tuesday afternoon ahead of its friendly match against Maccabi Tel Aviv on Thursday night in Bloomfield Stadium. A big crowd is expected for the game, which was organized to celebrate the culimination of Maccabi's 100th anniversary season. All proceeds will go towards for scholarships for students at Ben Gurion University. Although the Tel Aviv team had a less than impressive centenary, finishing in sixth place, the club will hope to end it with a bang. "We came to celebrate Maccabi's 100th birthday and we expect a wonderful event," Argentinean midfielder Guillermo Barros Schelotto said at a press conference on Tuesday evening. "We are aware of the security situation in Israel but we are here to celebrate and play against Maccabi and I'm sure everything will go well." Boca, which secured the Argentinean championship over the weekend, was welcomed at Ben Gurion airport by dozens of its Israeli fans. "We know we have many fans in Israel and we expected a warm welcome," Barros Schelotto said. Boca's championship was its 22nd in the various formats used since Argentine football turned professional in 1931. The team finshed 10 points behind archrivals, River Plate. Boca has also won the Copa Libertadores [South America's premier competition] five times. The Argentineans arrived without many of their first team players and without their head coach. Boca will be guided by assistant Jorge Ribolzi, who explained on Tuesday that the squad is depleted due to part of the team and head coach Alfio Basile traveling to Central America to play in a friendly match. One player who did come to Israel is star striker Martin Palermo. "We know that a lot of young Israelis travel to Argentina after their army service and watch Boca matches," Palermo said on Tuesday. "Now they will have a chance to watch Argentinean soccer in Israel." Palermo also said he wouldn't rule out a move to Israeli soccer. "I would defiantly look into an offer from Israel," he said. The game will be coach Ton Caanen's last in charge of the yellow-and-blue after Maccabi's decision to appoint Eli Cohen in his place. "Not many coaches have the privilege to play Boca Juniors," Caanen said at the press conference. "It's an honor to play Boca on my last day in the job."