Israel's Euro 2016 Soccer Qualifer Postponed Until March Due to Conflict

Match scheduled for March 31 instead of September 9; venue to be confirmed at later stage.

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Oscar Garcia, shown in Tel Aviv in 2012, quit his job as Maccabi Tel Aviv coach because of the security situation.
Oscar Garcia, shown in Tel Aviv in 2012, quit his job as Maccabi Tel Aviv coach because of the security situation.Credit: AP
Brian Homewood

REUTERS – Israel's Euro 2016 soccer qualifier at home to Belgium has been postponed until March following an agreement between the national associations of the two countries, UEFA said Wednesday.

European soccer's governing body said the Group B match, due to be played in Jerusalem's Teddy Stadium on September 9, would go ahead on March 31 instead.

"The kick-off time and venue will be confirmed at a later stage," it added.

In a decision made July 16, UEFA barred Israel indefinitely from staging any European competition matches, at either national team or club level, due to the security situation in the country. It said this week the decision remains in place until further notice.

Maccabi Tel Aviv has been playing its home ties in the Champions League qualifying competition in Cyprus.

Andorra, Bosnia, Cyprus and Wales are the other teams in the group.

The Israel-Hamas fighting has also led to the cancellation of the first round of Israeli soccer's Premier League, which was supposed to take place last weekend.

Not everyone welcomed the decision. “So Hamas said not to play soccer and we comply?" one club owner said. "That’s pathetic.”

In addition, Maccabi Tel Aviv says its soccer coach has quit because of the "current security situation" in Israel.

The club says Oscar Garcia, who is Spanish, is to be replaced by Pako Ayestaran, another Spaniard. Ayestaran was previously an assistant coach at Liverpool and Valencia under Rafa Benitez.

Garcia's resignation came two days before the second leg of the team's Europa League playoff against Greek club Asteras Tripolis, scheduled to be played in Cyprus.

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