Soccer: Tel Aviv readies for UEFA Congress, Platini visit

UEFA president to join FIFA counterpart Sepp Blatter at one of the most significant sporting conferences ever to be held in Israel.

Platini Luzon 311  (photo credit: MK Productions)
Platini Luzon 311
(photo credit: MK Productions)
The Hilton Hotel in Tel Aviv was a hive of activity on Monday as staff put the final touches on preparations for the 34th annual UEFA Congress and Executive Committee meeting, to be held at the prestigious venue this week.
More than 400 guests, representing all of the 53 UEFA member associations, will attend the meetings, which begin on Tuesday with the Executive Committee meeting held over two days. The Congress will be held on Thursday.
UEFA President Michel Platini will join his FIFA counterpart, Sepp Blatter, at the event, undoubtedly one of the most significant sporting conferences ever to be held in Israel.
With the appointment of new Israel national team coach Luis Fernandez confirmed on Sunday, Israel Football Association Chairman Avi Luzon was looking forward to rubbing shoulders with some of the most prominent personalities in European soccer.
“The Congress is a wonderful opportunity for us to be ambassadors for the soccer association and for the State of Israel,” he said. “Everyone who comes here will have an experience that will stay with them for a long while.”
This will be Platini’s second visit to Israel in only five months, and Luzon will be hoping to avoid a repeat of the embarrassing interruption which disturbed the former France international’s press conference when he was in the country last October.
Making a mockery of Israel’s security measures, a group of angry Betar Jerusalem fans stormed October’s media conference at a Tel Aviv hotel, in an apparent demonstration against Luzon and what they saw as poor refereeing in Jerusalem’s defeat to Hapoel Beersheba a day earlier.
Blatter has also been in the country relatively recently, attending the 10th anniversary celebrations for the Peres Center for Peace at the Dan Hotel in Tel Aviv in October 2008.
While the first two days of this week’s meetings will focus on the finances of European soccer’s governing body, Thursday’s Congress will have strong implications for 22 national teams.
A draw will be made in Tel Aviv to determine part of the qualifying schedule for Euro 2012 after the nations that make up four of the nine qualifying groups were unable to come to an agreement over a schedule for the matches.
Among those subject to a draw are Group G, which includes England,Switzerland and Wales, and Group F, where Israel will play alongsideGreece and Croatia among others.
The host of the 2012 UEFA European Futsal Championship is also to be decided at the Congress.
Ithas been rumored that Platini, who was elected president of UEFA in2007, will use the Congress to announce whether he plans to stand foranother term.