UEFA gets safety promise for Parma
Following some last-minute worries over security, European soccer's governing body gave its go-ahead for tomorrow's UEFA Cup fourth round clash between Hapoel Tel Aviv and Parma at Bloomfield. UEFA had asked for Israeli government guarantees for the safety of the Italian team and its fans and these were provided by Science, Culture and Sport Minister Matan Vilnai.
Parma had not asked for the game to be moved to a neutral venue or to be postponed, as had happened with some of the other sports outfits who had voiced concerns about visiting Israel recently. But the Italian club did ask UEFA for its opinion whether the current climate would allow for the game to go ahead.
"Discussions on arrangements have been concluded between UEFA and the two clubs concerned. The match is to be played on Thursday February 21," UEFA said in a statement yesterday.
"We simply wanted to be sure that the correct conditions for an international fixture would be in place," said Parma's press officer, Giorgio Bottaro. "We are satisfied with UEFA's assurances and we will be arriving as planned.
The Italians will be arriving on a charter flight this evening and will receive an escort directly from the steps of their plane to their hotel, where they will remain until the game. They will return home immediately after the match.
The Italians will be arriving without Turkish striker Hakan Sukur, who is injured, as are midfielders Alain Bogosian and Savari Lamouchy, who will also stay behind.
Victory bonus for Hapoel
One of Hapoel's owners, Rafi Agiv, told the players that they would receive bonuses over and above their contractual payment if they were to reach the late stages of the competition. The next opponent for the winner of this tie will probably be AC Milan, which beat Roda JC Kerkrade in the Netherlands 1-0 last night in its fourth round first leg tie.
Hapoel is completing its preparations for tomorrow's match and coach Dror Kashtan looks as if he will start with an almost identical line-up to the one that beat Gaziantepspor, Chelsea and Lokomotiv Moscow. The player who will be on the bench will probably be Milan Osterc, who is returning from injury.