2 OCTOBER 2002

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Malta's away venue with Israel still in the balance

British police reject Israel's London proposal

Malta will play Israel on 12 October at the Ta'Qali national stadium in Malta's opening home game in the 2004 European Championship qualifying tournament. But Malta is still in the dark were they are going to play its away game against Israel on the 10 September, 2003. The European Football Union has banned Israel from playing international matches on its home soil because of ongoing conflict in the Middle East.

London's Metropolitan police on Monday refused permission for the Israeli national team to play its "home" matches at Queens Park Rangers' Loftus Road stadium in West London.

Deterred by the massive security operation it would have to mount to protect the Israeli players and fans, police in the British capital have ruled out the Israeli request.

As a result of the decision, the Israel Football Association has postponed a planned visit to London by Chairman Gavri Levi, legal adviser Moshe Avivi and team coach Avraham Grant.

Israel plays its opening home game in the 2004 European Championship qualifying tournament against Cyprus on October 16, four days after its first away game, against Malta.

The IFA, which has been looking for a venue for the national team's home matches in the 2004 European Championship qualifying tournament since UEFA banned international games in Israel in April.

The Israeli national team also wanted to play Malta and the other teams at White Hart Lane. Israeli officials had asked Tottenham about playing home games at the Spurs' stadium at White Hart Lane. However, the club's director of football, David Pleat, said no international fixtures were planned for the stadium.

The decision is a blow to Israel, which could have expected a strong show of support from the Jewish community living near White Hart Lane. The Israeli federation wanted to play Malta, France, Slovenia, Cyprus and Luxembourg at the English stadium. It is a blow for the Israelis who could have expected great support at Tottenham, with upwards of 50,000 Jewish residents in North London.

The Israelis have also approached Romania, Bulgaria and Ukraine about playing "home" matches.

Israel was due to have informed UEFA where the game would be played some eight days ago, but was given an extension until 14 days before the match. This leaves Levi until today to notify UEFA, or risk handing the Cypriots a technical victory.


Copyright © Network Publications Malta.
Editor: Saviour Balzan
The Business Times, Network House, Vjal ir-Rihan San Gwann SGN 07, Malta
Tel: (356) 21382741-3, 21382745-6 | Fax: (356) 21385075 | e-mail: editorial@networkpublications.com.mt