UEFA says there is no appetite to ban Israel from competition

February 9 – UEFA has no intention of throwing Israel out of international competition despite the ongoing conflict in Gaza that has killed an estimated 25,000 people – almost half of them reportedly children – and left thousands more homeless.

UEFA were asked at a press conference following its congress in Paris on Wednesday why it was not applying the same sanctions to Israel as to Russia which has been barred since the invasion of Ukraine.

Israel face Iceland on March 21 in a European Championship qualifying playoff being played in neutral Budapest, with the winner away to Ukraine or Bosnia-Herzegovina in a decisive playoff five days later. That means Israel has a chance of playing in this summer’s Euros in Germany for the first time ever.

Since the start of the conflict with Hamas, Israeli club and national teams have been unable to host in UEFA competitions because of security concerns.  But UEFA says kicking them out is a step too far despite accusations in some quarters of double standards.

Russian teams are currently banned while the former Yugoslavia was famously kicked out of the 1992 European Championship because of the war in the Balkans.

But UEFA general secretary Theodore Theodoridis argues Israel is an entirely different case, the country having initially responded to the October 7 Hamas terrorist attacks.

“There was no such discussion or such intention from the UEFA administration,” Theodoridis told reporters when asked about comparisons with Russia’s actions.

“There are two completely different situations between the two countries. Don’t forget the start of the war in Russia and Ukraine and the start of what is happening now – which is regrettable, of course – in the Middle East.”

Theodoridis’ comments came hot on the heels of demands by a group of Middle East football associations for Israel to be banished, led by Prince Ali bin Al Hussein, the half-brother of Jordan’s King Abdullah II and the president of the Jordanian FA and the 12-nation West Asian Football Federation.

They also followed a counter-demand by head of Israeli football to preserve the status quo and not to throw his country out of world football.

Niv Goldstein, the chief executive of the Israel Football Association, told Sky News: “I am trusting FIFA not to involve politics in football. We are against involving politicians in football and being involved in political matters in the sport in general.

“So, we are concentrating only on football matters and our dream is to qualify for the European Championship in 2024, and I’m looking forward to world peace. Obviously, we think there is a lot of difference between our situation and other situations that happened in the world.”

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