UEFA.com works better on other browsers
For the best possible experience, we recommend using Chrome, Firefox or Microsoft Edge.

Developing football in Israel

Football spread from the suburbs of Tel Aviv and Jaffa at the beginning of the last century.

Israel at the World Cup finals in 1970
Israel at the World Cup finals in 1970 ©Popperfoto/Getty Images

Overview

The Israel Football Association (IFA) is striving to bring more men and women into football, and is aiming to bring the innovation and entrepreneurship that characterizes the State of Israel into the football industry.

The IFA is encouraging young players with a view to the national team and to the highest levels of competition, but also recognises that football is an important tool for social progress, bringing together different elements of society and fostering a sense of nationhood, regardless of race, sex or background.

A new academy for boys continues to bring in more potential senior internationals year on year, and women’s football is now a key area for development too; the IFA has established a women’s academy and three leagues for women and girls, and has national teams from the ages of 16 up to senior level, with the state-run Athena Program is providing further funding for women’s football. The IFA also continues to host UEFA final tournaments for men and women: the U21 men's EURO in 2013, the women's Under-19 finals in 2015 and the men's Under-17s in 2022.

"Although considered to be one of the oldest games, football has proved its ability to change, to innovate, to unite and to remain the most popular sport. In so many areas of life, in Israel and in any other country, football is a major and influential force. The IFA will continue to create connections through football in all the areas that make up the unique mosaic of Israeli society. Football gives us all the chance to come out as winners."

Yossi Sharabi, IFA general secretary

UEFA support

UEFA HatTrick funding supported the setting up of the Israeli Girls’ Football Academy and the IFA’s National Training Centre, which hosts activities for Israel’s national teams as well as coach and referee education courses, and serves as the base for the IFA’s youth academy. UEFA has also assisted with additional women’s, referee and youth elite development programmes and is supporting the establishment of a national academy and two regional elite development centres, one in the north of the country and one in the south.

UEFA Foundation for Children in Israel

Set up in 2015, the UEFA Foundation uses football as a vehicle to help improve children’s lives by supporting hundreds of campaigns and projects across Europe and around the world.

Twinned Peace Sport Schools (TPSS)

Ties between Arab and Jewish citizens in Israel are marred by ongoing conflict that has led to discrimination, fear, and distrust of “the other” on both sides. The Peres Center’s Twinned Peace Sport Schools (TPSS) programme is an extra-curricular football-based peace education programme combining regular football training with Hebrew/Arabic language learning, cross-cultural exchange and peace education activities that promote integration, diversity and inclusion among Jewish and Arab Israeli boys and girls aged 8-12.

Timeline

Association history

1912 The first organised match takes place in Eretz Israel, Maccabi Rehovot taking on a combined team of Maccabi Jaffa and Rishon LeZion, who soon merged to become Maccabi Tel-Aviv. The game has been played in the region since the start of the century, its popularity fueled by the arrival of immigrants from Europe. 1917 The start of British rule in the region intensifies interest in football, with local Jewish and Arab sides competing with British teams (the army and the police both fielded sides). 1928 In mid-August, a general meeting is held to lay the groundwork for a national football association and to request affiliation to FIFA. 1929 On 6 June, the Eretz Israel Football Association is accepted as a full FIFA member. 1932 The State Cup has been contested since 1928, but in 1932, nine clubs feature in the first national league campaign; British Police are the first champions, finishing three points clear of Hapoel Tel-Aviv. 1949 In October, the football league returns to its normal schedule after the War of Independence; Maccabi Tel-Aviv take the first championship. 1994 The Israel Football Association becomes a full member of UEFA, with the national team having been playing regularly in Europe since 1991. 2002 Hapoel Tel-Aviv become the first Israeli side to reach the quarter-finals of a major European competition, losing out narrowly to AC Milan in the 2001/02 UEFA Cup last eight. In the same year, Maccabi Haifa break new ground as the first Israeli side to reach the UEFA Champions League group stage. They return to the same phase in 2009, while Maccabi Tel-Aviv (2004 and 2015) and Hapoel Tel-Aviv (2010) follow in their footsteps. 2007 Israel compete at the UEFA European Under-21 Championship after qualifying for the finals for the first time. 2013 Israel stages the U21 EURO for the first time. The national team successfully qualifies for the equivalent U19 competition the following year. 2015 Israel hosts the Women's U19 EURO for the first time. Present day

National team history

1934 For the first time, a British Mandate for Eretz Israel team features in FIFA World Cup qualifying, losing home and away to Egypt in its first competitive games. 1948 The State of Israel comes into existence after the War of Independence; the newly-formed Israel national team tours the United States, losing 3-1 to a USA Olympic team in September. 1956 Israel is admitted to the Asian Football Confederation; the national team goes on to win the AFC Asian Cup as hosts in 1964, as well as six AFC Youth Championships (1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1971 and 1972), but leaves in 1974 for political reasons. 1970 The national team competes at the FIFA World Cup in Mexico, recording two draws and a defeat. Israel reached the last-16 of the Olympic football tournament in 1968 and would do so again in 1976. Present day

Oren Hasson
Oren Hasson©Israel Football Association

President

Oren Hasson

Nationality: Israeli
Date of birth: 18 May 1971
Association president since: 2019

IFA

General Secretary

Yossi Sharabi

Nationality: Israeli
Date of birth: 29 March 1962
Association general secretary since: 2021

Israel Football Association website