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Rediff.com  » Sports » Ban on Israel home matches off

Ban on Israel home matches off

April 21, 2004 18:28 IST

European soccer's ruling body UEFA said on Wednesday it had decided to lift a two-year ban on Israel playing their home matches on Israeli soil with immediate effect.

UEFA said it attached the conditions that all matches would have to be played in the Tel Aviv area and "security guarantees be provided for every match".

"The Israel Football Association and its clubs must confirm in writing that these conditions are accepted prior to entry to any UEFA competition," a UEFA statement said.

"In addition UEFA may impose a ban on any match or matches in Israel at any given time if, in its opinion, the security situation should deteriorate."

UEFA banned all matches under its jurisdiction against foreign opposition in Israel in March 2002 because of a worsening security situation in the country.

This forced national teams and clubs to host matches in venues throughout Europe. Israel is considered part of the European soccer family because in the past other countries in the Middle East refused to play them.

World soccer governing body FIFA has already said Israel can play 2006 World Cup qualifying matches in Israel, starting in September.

Earlier UEFA President Lennart Johansson told an Israeli newspaper: "You can convey to soccer fans in Israel that your national team's games in World Cup qualifying and club games in next season's European cup competitions will be played in the Tel Aviv area."

Johansson is in Cyprus for UEFA's annual conference which convenes in Limassol on Wednesday where the body's executive committee will hear a report from UEFA vice-presidents Angel Maria Villar Llona and Senes Erzik.

The two men visited Israel last week when they met Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, Internal Security Minister Tzahi Hanegbi and police chief Shlomo Aharonishki.

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