FIFA Obligates Austrian National Team to Play in Israel

Soccer's international governing body FIFA announced Monday that the Group 7 qualifying round match for 2002 World Cup between Israel and Austria will be played in Ramat Gan on October 7, as scheduled. By doing so, FIFA rejected the Austrian demand to play the game in a neutral stadium due to the security situation in Israel.

A FIFA statement sent to the Austrian Football Association said that a refusal to play in Israel would result in a suspension from the early tournament, a financial penalty, and an additional penalty to be paid to the Israeli Football Association amounting to the cost of the 40,000 tickets to the game.

The president of the Austrian Football Association announced that the Austrian team would arrive in Israel on Saturday morning, one day before the game. The Austrian coach invited 23 players, but the number of players has gone down to 14, as nine Austrian players have officially announced their refusal to travel to Israel.