Hapoel to host AC Milan in Nicosia
UEFA lifts ban on all matches in Israel
Thursday's UEFA Cup quarter-final first leg between Hapoel Tel Aviv and AC Milan will take place in Nicosia, Hapoel decided on Friday.
The March 14 match was moved to a neutral venue of Hapoel's choice by UEFA after it suspended all European soccer matches here due to the security situation.
The match will take place at the 25,000-seat GSP stadium, home to the Omonia, APOEL and Olympiakos Nicosia teams, kickoff is at 9 P.M.
While UEFA gave the okay, a Hapoel delegation visited three possible sites in Cyprus and made the annoucement before the European body made the annoucement official.
The stadium was completed in 1999 and has a covered west stand with a press box which can hold as many as 200 journalists.
Cypriot officials reportedly went out of their way to help Hapoel stage the tie and the team is expected to arrive in Cyprus on Tuesday ahead of the game.
Over 5,000 Israeli fans are expected to attend the match and fewer fans will come from Milan.
Club chairman Moshe Teomim and his team are planning to ask UEFA for major compensation for the tie but at the same time they are also trying to organize transportation both by air and by sea for the many supporters who plan to make the trip.
The flight time is about 25 minutes by jet and a sailing is about 12 hours. While El Al has agreed to help, the club fears that it may not find enough aircraft to ferry all the fans who want to travel to the game.
Despite the decision by UEFA to refuse permission for the game to go ahead in Tel Aviv, the emergency committee reconvened on Friday morning and reviewed the original decision after habing heard from the Israeli delegation on Thursday which was headed by Sports Minister Matan Vilnai.
The committee decided to lift its blanket ban on all matches and said that it would review the situation on a match-by-match basis.
Meanwhile a large security operation is planned for Cyprus. "Police will undertake their commitments and no problems are expected," a Cypriot FA source said on Friday.
UEFA's decision to stop Hapoel, the first Israeli team to reach the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup, playing at home triggered strong protests from Israeli officials.
Israeli officials said that imposing a ban meant "capitulating to terrorists."