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Israel already planning for 'amazing opportunity'

Knowledge gained at a "really high quality championship" in Denmark will help Israel put on "one of the best" tournaments in 2013, says Ronen Hershco of the Israeli FA.

Ronen Hershco, national teams department director at the Israel Football Association
Ronen Hershco, national teams department director at the Israel Football Association ©IFA

One of the men behind Israel's successful bid to stage the next UEFA European Under-21 Championship has hailed the quality of the "high class" finals in Denmark which conclude with Saturday's Switzerland-Spain showpiece.

Ronen Hershco, national teams department director at the Israel Football Association (IFA), has attended this month's tournament on the Danish peninsula of Jutland and expects his fact-finding mission to aid his country in hosting an outstanding sequel in 2013.

"It is high class in Denmark, they chose the best people in the best positions and it's really high quality," Hershco said. "I hope we have learned as much as we can, and this knowledge will help our belief that we can host one of the best tournaments."

Israel were announced in January as hosts of the championship in two summers' time, following a meeting of the UEFA Executive Committee. For Hershco, the decision rewarded the efforts of the IFA - as well as prompting his trip to Aarhus, Aalborg, Herning and Viborg after a similar visit to Sweden's tournament in 2009.

"It's about a four-year process because we were bidding for 2011 and were in the final two with Denmark. It was only by going through the process that we realised how big it is," he explained. "It is remarkable getting such a big event.

"From each tournament you take things that could be useful. Every tournament is in a different country and although it's the same regulations, the adaptations are different whether that's volunteering, infrastructure or distance between stadiums. One thing I've seen from Sweden and Denmark is that they were really committed and picked the best people."

Hershco believes one feature peculiar to the Israeli finals will be the proximity of the designated host cities of Netanya, Petach Tikva, Tel Aviv-Jaffa and Jerusalem. "One of the biggest advantages we have is the location of the cities because they are about 20 to 30 minutes apart. This means when you have a fan zone or another activity, it will have more of an impact.

"Most of the hotels and venues are near the coast which means you can have a very nice festival," he added. "We have Jerusalem which is one of a kind, not only in football, so it will be an amazing opportunity for the players, UEFA and everybody that will come."

The tournament will also bring benefits to Israeli football in infrastructure and expectations. IFA president Avraham Luzon had played a central role in the bid to stage the event in the belief it would promote both the country and its footballing community.

"We've started to build two new stadiums for the event and, with the two other stadiums, the municipalities that own them are going to renovate and add more seats," Hershco said. "I'm personally very excited because we worked very hard to get the bid and having been exposed to similar events I know what it can bring to our country.

"The precedent will also be set for the national team to participate at the highest level. The legacy will be that we have the chance to see, at home and not on television, the best players at this age. It can show we can reach other tournaments."

With Guy Luzon's U21 side set to follow in the footsteps of the pioneering Israel teams that participated at the 1970 FIFA World Cup and, latterly, the 2007 U21 Championship, the hope is that "we can show the quality of the Israeli players". Hershco concluded: "Tournaments like this are the future of football. The matches will be televised all over the world, not just in Europe, and I think it will be the biggest event we've had in the country."