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Israel to host UEFA congress
Last update - 16:14 23/03/2010
Israel hosting UEFA Congress for the first time
By Haaretz Service
Tags: Israel news
More than 300 soccer officials from around the world are in Israel for the next three days for the UEFA Congress.
This is the first time that Israel has ever hosted the annual gathering, which is taking place two months before the World Cup kicks off in South Africa.
Congress participants include FIFA President Joseph (Sepp) Blatter, UEFA President Michel Platini, former German footballer Franz Beckenbauer and the heads of international football teams.
Hosting the UEFA Congress is the culmination of a years-long effort by the Israeli Tourism Ministry.
"Israel is an ideal country for training camps and sporting activities and matches, year-round and especially during the European winter," said Israeli Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov. "I am sure that the combination of the climate and the infrastructure for training and matches, alongside the many tourist sites and entertainment and leisure options, will make our guests choose Israel for both personal and professional visits in the future."
The Tourism Ministry is working to increase Israel's cooperation with European countries in order to boost tourism by improving Israel's international image as a safe and modern country to visit.
UEFA banned matches hosted in Israel between 2001 and 2004, when terror attacks were a near-weekly occurrence.
During that period, the Israel national team and the country's biggest soccer clubs were forced to play home games as far away as Cyprus, Turkey and Italy. Hapoel Tel Aviv played its historic 2002 UEFA Cup quarter final in the Cypriot city of Nicosia after visitors AC Milan refused to come to Tel Aviv, while thousands of Maccabi Haifa fans missed out on their team's victory over Manchester United in the 2002-03 UEFA Champions League, also held in Nicosia.
UEFA also banned home matches in Israel for a short period after the outbreak of the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006