On Wednesday, the entire football world is focused on a small Hungarian stadium: Israel’s national football team hosts Switzerland at the Pancho Arena in Felcsút, Hungary. On this day, it will be the only European Championship qualifier, but it is not particularly attention-grabbing for this reason. Due to the Israeli-Palestinian war, all sports events have been suspended in Israel, and the National Team are playing for the first time on their chosen ‘home field’ in Felcsút.
According to the Israeli ambassador to Hungary, the selection of the venue took many factors into account.
‘We have a reason to play here. We have to play here because other teams do not want to travel to Israel since our country is unfortunately at war. In choosing the venue, we considered many aspects, with a special focus on security. Above all,
Israeli athletes have had good experiences in Hungary; the sports facilities are excellent, and the Hungarians always organize similar events at a high level,’
Yacov Hadas-Handelsman said, as reported by the Hungarian TV network RTL. The report is available here in full.
The Israeli footballers have already arrived in Felcsút, and on Tuesday afternoon, the team held an unconventional and extremely moving press conference. Only representatives of RTL could ask questions from the Hungarian media. Reporter László Süle, reporting from the scene, said it was moving because such press conferences usually focus only on football, but this time they had to talk about something else.
One of the star players of the Israeli national team brought with him the shoe of a kidnapped football player to Felcsút.
‘This guy is still held captive in the Gaza Strip with seven other people from his family. This is all that remains of him, his left shoe. We are waiting for you to come back. Thank you,’ said Eli Dasa, the team captain, with deep emotion in his voice.
On Wednesday, Israel play against Switzerland. Three days later, they face Romania in their next ‘home’ game while competing for qualification for the European Championship. This could be the first time the team qualifies for the tournament since joining the European Football Association in 1994. On Sunday, 12 November, they lost 1–0 to Kosovo in an away game.
Source: Hungarian Conservative/RTL.hu