England fans appreciate warm welcome from Israelis ahead of showdown in Ramat Gan.
By SAMANTHA PEARSON
As England fans continued to arrive in Israel on Thursday, some were just glad to be here and others appreciated the warm welcome from Israelis.
"We were really worried that we would never get here because of Wednesday's strike. But now that we're here, the Israelis have been great," said Charlie Case, who is originally from London but works in Uganda and traveled to Israel just to see the Euro 2008 qualifying round match.
"It's a pleasant change to be welcomed for once," added fellow supporter David Ward, who came to see the game with his wife.
While there is heavy security in and around Tel Aviv, there had been no reports of soccer-related problems.
"I think the situation with English fans is getting better," said Ward. "We went out last night and it seems to be mostly just couples."
Another soccer devotee echoed Ward's assessment and added that he has traveled the world as a fan of the sport and the last real trouble he saw was at a 1998 match in France. "...I think it's partly because the [English] Football Association is making more of an effort nowadays to run criminal record checks on the people that want tickets," he explained.
At Buzz Stop, a beachfront pub, the staff was prepared for an exciting weekend. "Most of [the English fans] have not arrived yet but we are ready," noted a Buzz Stop waitress.
"We know about the problem with football hooligans, but we are thinking positive. We also have a heavy police presence outside."
Yafit Cohen, a receptionist at the Yamit Park Plaza Hotel on the beach, said that her hotel is fully booked, mostly with England fans, and also confirmed that they had no problems so far.
"We were not worried at all about them coming," said Cohen. "We had the Irish fans here two years ago and everything was fine then, so we don't expect anything bad to happen this time."
The English appeared to be more concerned about coming to Israel than Israelis were about receiving them. "There's been no trouble so far and I don't think there will be," said England supporter Zoe Steane.
"To be honest, we were more worried about suicide bombers. Our hotel is right next to the US Embassy.
"But we love England and we decided to come out here no matter what."
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