Soccer / Europa League qualifiers / Heavy security awaits Maccabi Tel Aviv in Azerbaijan
Maccabi Tel Aviv prepares to play Khazar Lankaran in Azerbaijan. Players concentrate on the game ahead not massive security surrounding them.
Some 15,000 fans, 400 policemen and 300 soldiers will meet Maccabi Tel Aviv for its return leg tonight against Khazar Lankaran in Azerbaijan, just 40 kilometers from the Iranian border. In a move to prevent Iranian citizens from entering the stadium, every fan will have to present a passport. The 30 Maccabi fans who made the journey in three flights will be given heavy security.
Team members say the trip to Lankaran was one long nightmare − from the flights to the rickety buses to the hot, humid weather.
“We’re focusing just on soccer and not on anything around it,” coach Motti Ivanir said yesterday at the team’s press conference. “We have no complaints about the Azerbaijanis. Everyone here is very nice and helpful.”
Ivanir is wavering between Omer Vered and Klemi Saban to start. “It won’t be easy,” said Maccabi’s Haris Medunjanin. “We are just going to try and focus on our own play.”
Tel Aviv won the first leg in Israel 3-1.
“We learned from our mistakes in the first game and are ready for Maccabi,” said Lankaran coach Mircea Rednic.
Bnei Yehuda is favored to join Maccabi Tel Aviv in the next round of the Europa League after beating Andorran club Saint Julia 2-0 last week.