Recent developments on the diplomatic front could bring an end to the ban on hosting international and European club competition games in Israel next month when the Israel Football Association hosts its 75th anniversary celebrations.
Several leading international soccer executives including FIFA president Sepp Blatter and UEFA president Lennart Johansson are expected to attend the IFA's anniversary celebrations on June 15.
The meeting may also be attended by Johanssen's deputies, Senes Erzik and Angel Maria Villar Llona. The two were to have visited Israel in September 2002 to review the ban but following a suicide bombing the visit was canceled. Their presence at the gathering will be seen as another indication that the ban could be lifted.
Well informed sources in FIFA and UEFA have said that in view of developments on the diplomatic front and in honor of the IFA's 75th anniversary celebrations the UEFA and or FIFA presidents may make a statement about a review of the situation in Israel and a possible lifting of the ban on official games being hosted in the country.
IFA chairman Gavri Levi said yesterday that he had sent a letter to UEFA stating that in view of diplomatic developments in the region he believed that there was now no reason that Israel should not host its Euro 2004 qualifying match against Slovenia on June 7 in Israel rather than in the Turkish resort of Antalya.
Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom was to have raised the issue of the ban with several of his European counterparts yesterday at the Euro-Med foreign ministers conference in Crete.
UEFA spokesman Mike Lee said yesterday that UEFA was following developments in the region but had not taken any decision that would change the current situation.
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