UEFA says Hapoel TA-Milan game won't be in Israel
Minister of Science, Culture and Sport Matan Vilnai will travel to Zurich on Thursday in an attempt to convince European soccer's governing body UEFA to revoke a decision Wednesday to stop all international matches in Israel, Israel Radio reported.
According to the UEFA decision, next week's match between Hapoel Tel-Aviv and AC Milan will be moved to a neutral venue.
"In the light of the current tragic events in Israel, no competition matches can be staged in the country until further notice," UEFA said in a statement.
UEFA Chief Executive Gerhard Aigner has written to the Israeli Football Association to announce the decision.
"This was not an easy decision but is, we believe, in the best interests of everyone concerned," he said.
Instead, the game will be played as planned on March 14, but at a location of Hapoel's choosing. UEFA said it would announce the new venue shortly. The second game will apparently go ahead as planned in San Siro on March 21.
UEFA allowed Hapoel's fourth-round match, against Parma, to go ahead after receiving security guarantees from the government, but the violence has increased in Israel in recent days.
"We have noted with great concern the increasing number of tragic incidents and the most recent escalation of violence, which has also now reached Tel Aviv," Aigner said.
Three people were killed in a shooting attack in a Tel Aviv restaurant on Monday evening. A number of Hapoel Tel Aviv players were in the restaurant at the time.
UEFA spokesman Mike Lee said Tuesday that there had been no change in the preparations for the game. The Milan team also said that there was no change in their plans to play in Israel and that they had full confidence in Israel's security forces.
This is not the first time that an international fixture has been moved due to security concerns. At the start of the season, soccer's international ruling body, FIFA, decided to relocate a game between Glasgow Rangers and Russian team Anzhi Makhachkala to Poland after it ruled that the stadium in which the match was to be played was too close to the Russian border with Chechnya.
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