Israeli football averted a crisis on Friday when UEFA finally gave its approval for April's home UEFA EURO 2004™ qualifier against France to go ahead as planned in the Italian city of Palermo.
European football's ruling body had given Israel a Friday deadline to submit security guarantees for the Group 1 match on 2 April or else face "serious consequences". "We can confirm that we have received the documents from the Israeli FA," a UEFA spokesman said.
'Match will go ahead'
"The UEFA administrative committee has examined the document, which was passed on from the Italian interior ministry, and we can confirm that the 2 April match against France in Palermo will go ahead as planned."
The Israel Football Association (IFA) needed to find an alternative venue as it is not allowed to host matches in Tel-Aviv because of the volatile security situation in the Middle East. After attempts to secure various venues in England proved unsuccessful, the Israelis turned their attention to Italy, first to Florence and then Palermo in Sicily.
Extra guarantees required
Agreement between the Israeli and Italian associations was reached last month but UEFA had asked for extra security guarantees, which were not provided by their original deadline of 31 January. The Israelis, who were ultimately responsible for presenting all the documentation, had failed to provide one last letter from the Italian authorities undertaking to secure the fixture. But as Friday's extended deadline loomed a faxed letter arrived at UEFA's offices in Nyon, Switzerland.
French top table
The Israeli media had reported that Israel faced possible expulsion from the EURO 2004™ qualifying competition if the documents did not arrive on time. Israel are second in Group 1 with three points from one game, while France lead the group with nine points from three games.
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