IFA postpones all weekend games due to Gaza conflict

Hapoel Tel Aviv beats Maccabi Haifa 2-0 in Toto Cup quarterfinal.

maccabi haifa 88 (photo credit: )
maccabi haifa 88
(photo credit: )
The Israel Football Association announced on Monday night that all this weekend's league matches, senior and youth, will be postponed due to the ongoing conflict with Hamas and the barrage of rocket fire in the south of the country. "The IFA feels it would be wrong to play the matches while residents of the South are under rocket fire and are in bomb shelters and sheltered areas," an IFA statement read. "This wasn't an easy decision, but it was a unanimous one and was taken whole-heartedly after chairman Avi Luzon spoke to the heads of the different clubs and to the secretary members of the IFA." Luzon said: "We support the residents of the South and the IDF soldiers fighting in the Gaza strip. May the peace and quiet return to the homes of all Israelis and may all our soldiers return home healthy and safe." It will be the second consecutive week that games have been postponed, although last week the teams in the Premier and National leagues were still on a winter break and would not have played in any case. The IFA decision was announced as the half-time whistle was blown at the Toto Cup quarterfinal first leg between Hapoel Tel Aviv and Maccabi Haifa at Bloomfield Stadium. The game finished 2-0 to Tel Aviv, with striker Maharan Lala grabbing both goals for the hosts. Hapoel was the far stronger side throughout the match, following which Haifa coach Elisha Levy expressed a need for his side to improve. "We didn't play well," he said. "We weren't organized. We must be much better in the next game." The coaches of both sides said they support the IFA's decision to postpone the weekend's league matches. Hapoel Tel Aviv coach Eli Gutman said: "Soccer can wait. It is not simple to play while the soldiers are there in Gaza, but we were obligated to [tonight]." Levy added that it had been a difficult atmosphere to play in at Bloomfield on Monday. Two more Toto Cup quarterfinals are scheduled for this week and IFA spokesman Gil Lebanony confirmed that they will still be played, despite the decision to postpone the league games. On Tuesday Bnei Yehuda will host Maccabi Tel Aviv and Ashdod SC visits Maccabi Netanya. The game between Bnei Sakhnin and Ironi Kiryat Shmona was postponed on Sunday after police expressed concerns that there could be a repeat of the vitriolic anti-Israel demonstrations which were held in the city on Saturday.