Five countries will call on UEFA to rescind its ban on teams playing in Israel when European soccer's governing body meets in Istanbul next week.
Germany and the Netherlands are the two major European nations involved in calling for Israel's return, while Russia, Cyprus and Luxembourg will also raise their hands in support.
The proposal concerns only national team games because the meeting in Turkey will discuss issues concerning the Euro 2004 qualifying competition and has nothing to do with Champions League and UEFA Cup matters. Nevertheless, there is a chance that a decision involving one competition could have a bearing on the others.
Israel Football Association chairman Gavri Levi will convene a meeting of senior IFA officials on Sunday morning before preparing the speech he will deliver to the 18 members of the committee. UEFA is expected to decide on the matter by next Thursday.
But yesterday, another problem may have emerged, following the speech of U.S. President George W. Bush at the United Nations concerning a possible attack on Iraq. The tension in the region could cause any decision to be dependent on a calming of the tensions on that issue. A decision could also be dependent on the status of both the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the U.S.-Iraq stand-off in tandem.
"I am going [to Istanbul] with great hopes and belief that [international] soccer will return to Israel, but we have to be very careful and not count our chickens," Levi said yesterday.
"Maybe what the delegates say to me to my face and in phone conversations is different from what will be decided, but I do believe that we will return to host matches at Ramat Gan," Levi added.
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