Tel Aviv Fans Scared Off by High Ticket Prices

Hapoel off to Cyprus today for Thursday's clash with ACMilan

Hapoel Tel Aviv leaves for Cyprus this afternoon ahead of Thursday's UEFA Cup quarterfinal first leg tie against AC Milan.

Originally scheduled for Bloomfield, UEFA ordered the match to be played outside the country due to the volatile security situation.

Hapoel held a final training session at Bloomfield yesterday with three key players missing: Yossi Abuksis, Istvan Pishont and Ben Luz, all who are suffering from various leg injuries.

Captain Shimon Gershon also pulled out during the training session due to an injury to his ankle.

Despite the injury worries, some of them should be ready for this evening's training session in Nicosia, and all the players are expected to be ready for Thursday's match.

Hapoel coach Dror Kashtan returned from Italy yesterday where he watched AC Milan's 2-0 league loss to Bologna.

Poor sales

Hapoel sources said yesterday they are very disappointed with ticket sales for the game thus far. As of yesterday, only 1,600 packages had been sold to Hapoel fans. Most have been turned away due to the high prices for the trip. Unless prices are reduced drastically, no more than 2,500 fans are expected to attend the game at Nicosia's GSP Stadium.

El Al said yesterday that unless it sees an upturn in sales, most of its scheduled flights to Cyprus would be canceled. Meanwhile, Hapoel is trying to arrange more attractive offers through various agencies.

While Hapoel's well traveled fans may decide to skip Thursday's match, many are planning to travel to Milan for next week's return leg.

Most of Hapoel's players said they understood their opponents' fears of traveling to Israel and UEFA's decision to move the match to a safer location.

"If I were a player for AC Milan, and I were to see the horrible pictures on TV from the terror attacks, I would also be afraid to travel to Israel," said Gershon.

Milan in trouble

Milan Coach Carlo Ancelotti said yesterday that he feared his Ukrainian striker Andrei Shvechenko would not be fit to play. "His situation in not promising," he said. "The injury to his foot is causing him problems, and I am not at all sure that he will be fit for the game on Thursday," Ancelotti said.

Italian media representatives were much more direct, and said that Shvechenko would not even travel to Cyprus. He is needed for a much more important clash with league rival Torino at San Siro Stadium Sunday.

The Italian squad will leave for Cyprus tomorrow morning and will hold a final training session at the GSP Stadium tomorrow evening. Only four fans of Milan had registered to join the team for the trip as of yesterday evening.

The lack of interest appears to be the result of the long distance to Cyprus (3-1/2 hours away from Milan) and the team's poor form so far this season, particularly following Sunday's disappointing match against Bologna.

Only 25 journalists will join the trip from Italy, and most expressed doubt over the team's ability to obtain a good result.

The Italian press gave Ancelotti's team a pasting yesterday, and highlighted the fact that many fans left the match in the beginning of the second half as a sign of protest.