UEFA refuses to allow Israel to host matches

IFA thought ceasefire would persuade the Europeans to overturn their decision.

Any lingering hopes that Maccabi Haifa and Betar Jerusalem would be able to host their European home matches in Israel were quashed on Wednesday after UEFA turned down the IFA's renewed request to permit matches in Israel. "With regard to the general situation, there is no reason at this stage to change the decision," UEFA chief executive Lars-Christer Olsson wrote. "We will watch the safety and security situation in and around Israel very carefully." IFA chairman Itzhak "Itche" Menahem sent a fax to UEFA on Monday requesting that the European matches return to Israel after a ceasefire had been reached in Israel's northern border. In its statement last week UEFA promised that should the situation change they would cancel their earlier decision. "The UEFA administration will continue to monitor the safety and security situation in Israel and further decisions will be made according to changes in this situation," Olsson announced last week. Menahem believed that the ceasefire would persuade the Europeans to overturn their decision however UEFA thought otherwise and upheld its ruling. The IFA's failed attempt means that Haifa will now definitely host Liverpool in Kiev, Ukraine, on August 22. Jerusalem will play Dinamo Bucharest in Sofia, Bulgaria on August 24. Last week Betar lost the first leg of its UEFA Cup tie 1-0 in Bucharest and Maccabi was beaten 2-1 at Liverpool. "It appears to us that the institute that prides itself of preventing the politicization of sport had made a decision that has a political overtone," Haifa chairman Ya'akov Shachar said after hearing of UEFA's latest statement. "It is beyond our understanding why the matches cannot take place in Israel. "I'm sorry that all fans and particularly Haifa fans will not be able to enjoy the unforgettable experience of hosting Liverpool in Israel." Jerusalem chairman Vladimir Shklar also appeared upset with Wednesday's news. "It is a very disappointing decision," Shklar said. "We hoped that as a result of the ceasefire we would be able to host Dinamo in Israel. "Nevertheless, we will do our best to win the second leg. I hope the games return to Israel soon." With no chance of changing UEFA's decision regarding Haifa and Betar, Menahem now faces the task of bringing back the international matches to Israel in time for the national teams home game against Andorra on September 6. As things currently stand no international matches can take place in Israel and the IFA chairman has only three weeks to save the national team from the same fate as the Israeli clubs.