Is football still happening in Israel? Where home games are being played

Football has been temporarily paused in Israel in light of the armed conflict in the nation, but not all clubs have been forced to close doors completely for the time being.

Domestic fixtures in early October were postponed across the country, and at the time of publication, football activities have not yet been resumed.

“After a thorough evaluation of the current safety and security situation in the whole territory of Israel, the UEFA Executive Committee decided that no Uefa competition matches shall be played in Israel until further notice,” the European governing body said in a statement on October 19.

However, that is not quite the full story, as The Sporting News takes you through the current situation in Israel with regards to the latest news on football fixtures for both Israeli clubs and the national team.

At the start of the conflict between Israel and Hamas, Uefa suspended all football in Israel while it sorted out if it was possible to safely proceed with sporting fixtures amid ongoing hostilities.

Matches were shuttered in early October while players and staff were told they were allowed to flee the nation if desired. For example, Maccabi Tel Aviv head coach Robbie Keane reportedly left the country via Greece as the conflict escalated.

Most clubs have not played a competitive fixture since the end of September. Maccabi Tel Aviv’s last league game was a 2-0 win over Hapoel Petach-Tikva on September 30, while Maccabi Haifa’s last domestic fixture was a 3-2 victory over Maccabi Netanya the following day.

However, those two clubs are still competing in European football, and have been forced to find new homes as they look to fulfill remaining fixtures and advance through the tournament while waiting for the domestic campaign to restart.

Maccabi Tel Aviv and Maccabi Haifa are still both competing in European competition, and have been forced to play fixtures outside their home borders, as Uefa’s decree has barred them from playing on Israeli soil while the conflict is ongoing.

In the Europa League, Maccabi Haifa are competing in Group F alongside Stade Rennes, Villarreal, and Panathinaikos. They sit with one point through their first three matches, having played out a scoreless draw with Panathinaikos as well as defeats to their French and Spanish counterparts.

Haifa saw their road fixture against Villarreal, originally scheduled for October 26, rearranged for December 6 at the request of the Israeli club who argued that player and staff safety was at risk and logistical departure from the country was difficult to arrange at the time.

They were able to contest their following home fixture against Villarreal on November 9, securing the use of AEK Arena in Cyprus, the home of Cypriot club AEK Larnaca. The club has yet to confirm a venue for their remaining home fixture in the competition, as they’re scheduled to host Stade Rennes on November 30.

Due to the logistical difficulties of rearranging fixtures, Maccabi Haifa’s youth team has withdrawn its participation from the UEFA Youth League, with Sparta Prague’s youth side taking their place in the competition.

Maccabi Tel Aviv, meanwhile, are also alive in European competition, sitting second in their Europa Conference League group alongside KAA Gent, Zorya Luhansk, and Breioablik. Like Maccabi Haifa, they saw their European match against Ukrainian side Luhansk, originally scheduled for October 26, pushed back a month. As the host for that fixture, no alternate venue has yet been secured.

Their return fixture against Luhansk, coincidentally, was also played at a neutral venue due to unrelated hostilities in Ukraine amidst Russia’s invasion. That match was played in Warsaw, Poland with Maccabi Tel Aviv emerging as 3-1 victors.

While domestic football in the war-torn nation has been paused, the national team is attempting to fulfill its obligations – but significant difficulties remain.

Israel are in Group I of Euro 2024 qualification alongside Romania, Switzerland, Kosovo, Belarus, and Andorra. They have completed six matches, one or two less than their fellow competitors after their October fixtures against Kosovo and Switzerland were postponed due to the conflict.

Their match against Kosovo eventually took place on November 12, with Israel losing 1-0, while the game against Switzerland was rescheduled for November 15. That means there’s a whopping four matches crammed into the November international break for the national team.

Two of those November fixtures — the rescheduled game against Switzerland and their ensuing match against Romania — are home matches, which will be played in Felcsut, Hungary at Pancho Arena, the home of Hungarian club Puskas Akademia FC

Those are their last remaining home fixtures of the group stage in European qualifying, but thanks to their previous results which guarantee them at least a third-place finish, they could potentially end up with playoff matches as well.

Is football still happening in Israel? Home games played abroad in Europe amid Gaza conflict

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