FIFA reschedules Israel-Austria World Cup game for October 27
ZURICH - A decisive World Cup qualifier between Israel and Austria, which was last week postponed for security reasons, would take place October 27, world soccer's governing body FIFA said Thursday.
The Group 7 match for the 2002 World Cup was scheduled for October 7 in Tel Aviv. But FIFA President Sepp Blatter postponed the match following the October 3 crash of a flight from Tel Aviv in the Black Sea. It appears that a missile fired by the Ukrainian military - rather than a terrorist attack- was to blame for the crash which killed all 78 people on board.
The Israeli soccer federation and government had been enraged by the postponement of the match, accusing FIFA of bowing to terrorism. Austrian soccer players - nine of whom had refused to travel to Tel Aviv because of security fears in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks and ongoing Palestinian-Israeli violence - were relieved.
A meeting was held Thursday morning at the UEFA congress building in Prague, between Israel Football Association chairman Gavri Levy and President of the Austrian Football Association, in an attempt to ease the tensions between the two associations.
Levi told his Austrian counterpart that several of the accusations against the Austrians published in Israeli press had not been made or had been misinterpreted. Both termed the meeting as "constructive and very important."
Later in the day, the two held a second, unofficial meeting, without FIFA and UEFA officials present. During the meeting the two set the date and venue for the match. The Austrians had wanted the game to take place on October 28, as an Austrian derby had been scheduled for October 27. However, the Austrians eventually agreed to play the match on the 27th, and the derby was postponed.
A FIFA statement said the new date was set in consultation with the two national soccer federations concerned. The match will most likely take place in the original venue of Tel Aviv, according to a FIFA official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The game will determine which team will have the right to play Turkey in the November playoffs for a spot in next year's soccer World Cup in Japan and South Korea. Austria is in second place with 14 points, while third-placed Israel has 11 points. Spain won the group and qualified automatically.