Soccer / Israel may again be off-limits for UEFA
The UEFA Professional Committee, meant to discuss allowing Israeli teams to host international matches outside the greater Tel Aviv area, has been postponed due to violence in the region.
The UEFA Professional Committee, which was due to meet in Nyon, Switzerland, Friday to discuss the possibility of allowing Israeli teams to host international matches outside the greater Tel Aviv area, has been postponed due to violence in the region.
Instead, UEFA is examining the possibility of banning Israeli teams from hosting any games here, although no date has been set to discuss this option.
Currently, Israeli teams can host matches only in the Tel Aviv area, a condition imposed in April, 2004, when UEFA lifted a two-and-a-half-year ban on local clubs hosting matches anywhere in the country. The original ban had been put into effect in 2002 following a terrorist attack in Tel Aviv.
The draws for the preliminary rounds of the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Cup - in which three Israeli teams are participating - are set to be held in Switzerland Friday.
"No date has been set for a discussion of the issue of games being played in Israel," UEFA communications director William Gaillard told Haaretz yesterday. "We may meet on Thursday, the day before the draws are made, or maybe only on Friday after the draw. If we meet Friday, we will invite the teams drawn against Israel to participate in the discussions. UEFA's interest is to reach a joint decision that will be good for all sides."
In other words, Gaillard is hoping that the draw is kind to the Israeli teams - not in terms of the level of its opponents, but politically. It would be much more convenient for UEFA if one of the three Israeli teams -Hapoel Tel Aviv, Bnei Yehuda and Beitar Jerusalem - is drawn against teams from Croatia, Bosnia, Slovenia or Serbia, rather than a French team, which may refuse to come here.
It is equally clear that if Maccabi Haifa is drawn against CSKA Moscow or Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League, there is more of a chance that the game will go ahead here than if the opposition is Arsenal, Valencia or Ajax Amsterdam.
Gaillard also said that UEFA "is monitoring the situation in Israel and the region, and any change in the status quo will not be taken without serious consideration."
Reading between the lines, one can understand that if the situation in the region suddenly calms down, UEFA will be open to allowing games to proceed throughout the country. On the other hand, if missiles start hitting the center of the country, UEFA would not hesitate to cancel or relocate matches scheduled to be played here.