UEFA's disciplinary committee decided Friday to award a 3-0 technical victory to FC Haka Valkeakoski of Finland over Maccabi Haifa because the Israeli team included an ineligible player in its lineup in the game played Wednesday night, Israel Radio reported. As a result, the Champions League game scheduled between Maccabi Haifa and Liverpool next week has been cancelled.
Maccabi Haifa will appeal the decision.
Haifa, which beat Haka 4-0 on Wednesday night at Kiryat Eliezer for a 5-0 aggregate win, included Walid Badir in their lineup. The international defender was ineligible to play as he should have still have been observing a ban after being sent off in UEFA Cup action on September 14 last year against Vitesse Arnhem of the Netherlands.
Badir was suspended for three matches and had already sat out two games - the return leg against Vitesse two weeks later and the first match in Finland against Haka. He should have also missed Wednesday's game.
The cancellation of the clash with Liverpool and possibly at least two more matches in Europe, could lead to a loss of income of over $2 million for the club.
The sad tale of events for Haifa began Thursday at lunch time, after club president Yaacov Shahar was finished giving interviews telling how he was preparing to host Liverpool, which was scheduled for Wednesday night at the National Stadium in Ramat Gan. After the decisive showing by the home team, the club boss was hoping to see as many as 40,000 fans flock to the game, but his mood changed drastically when word from UEFA to the Israel Football Association queried the inclusion of Badir and asked Haifa to respond by 10 A.M. Friday as to why he was included despite faxes which were sent stating that he was still banned for the match.
On June 27 this year UEFA sent a fax to the IFA stating which players connected to Israeli club were banned and for what period. Badir's name appeared on the list and it stated that he was banned for two matches. Haifa and the IFA claimed that this is the reason for the misunderstanding.
The IFA sent a letter to Haifa telling the club of the two-match ban for Badir after the sending off against Vitesse and that he would have to miss the first game against Haka. The IFA apparently assumed that the two games included the one from last season and one from the current season. Haifa was happy to hear that he would be eligible for the return leg after missing the first match in Finland.
According to IFA's, however, UEFA sent it and Haifa another fax saying that Badir was banned from two matches, but this did not register with anybody as being different to the first fax, and all the people who saw the message still thought that it meant a two-match ban in total.
Shahar said that he had a letter from the IFA telling him that Badir would have to miss only one match this season. "It looks like a mistake by the IFA, they said that he would have to miss only the game against Haka," an angry Shahar said.
Yossi Dagan, who is the IFA's foreign relations official, refused to comment on the matter Thursday, but spokesman Yariv Ben-Eliezer confirmed the sequence of events and the fact that letters and faxes had been received by both the IFA and Haifa.
"We sent Haifa a second letter from UEFA on August 1 which said that Badir was suspended from two matches, Haifa should have called UEFA to clarify the situation. It is unfair to blame the IFA for this situation," he said.
Badir, who broke his cheek bone in the game Wednesday and had to be stretchered off in the first half, underwent an operation yesterday. He will be out of action for the next month.
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