Brussels cancels Israel soccer match over Gaza war

The UEFA Nations League match between the Israeli national team and Belgium’s Red Devils was scheduled to take place on Sept. 6 at the King Baudouin Stadium.

By Akiva Van Koningsveld, JNS

The city of Brussels is refusing to host a soccer match with Israel set to take place this fall due to “the humanitarian and security situation in Gaza and its many consequences,” local officials said on Wednesday.

“Given the dramatic situation in the Middle East, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen of the City of Brussels considers it impossible to organize a high-risk match on its territory,” the capital city announced.

The UEFA Nations League match between the Israeli national team and Belgium’s “Red Devils” was scheduled to take place on Sept. 6 at the King Baudouin Stadium, but ticket sales were put on hold last month.

According to the city, it informed the Royal Belgian Football Association that it would not be hosting the game after “months” of discussions with the federal government regarding the security aspects.

“Following a careful and in-depth analysis, we must conclude today that the announcement of such a match in our capital in these particularly volatile times will undoubtedly lead to large demonstrations and counter-protests, jeopardizing the safety of spectators, players, Brussels residents and our police forces,” Brussels’ socialist mayor claimed.

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The city’s press release also lamented that “since October 7, 2023, the police have continually been called upon to guarantee the daily security of the city, particularly to manage the large number of rallies resulting from these international tensions.”

In April, Mayor Philippe Close spearheaded a campaign that collected more than 500 pallets of humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip.

The nearby city of Leuven, which had been considered as an alternative venue for the match, has also refused to host the Israeli team, with Mayor Mohamed Ridouani citing “security reasons.”

Piet Vandendriessche, CEO of the Belgium Football Association, told the Flemish De Standaard daily on Wednesday, “We understand the situation in Israel and Palestine and the consequences for security. We agreed to hold the match behind closed doors—even though we need our fans—but we regret that the game is now not allowed to go on at all.”

He said France and Italy are also hosting home matches against Israel, noting that they are even allowing fans into the stadiums.

“A scenario we would rather not see is that we have to play our home match abroad. Not only would this have an impact on the sportive aspect, but there would also be additional financial costs involved, on top of the lost income from ticket sales,” Vandendriessche said.

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