Friday 2 Mar, 2007
The England players travelling to Israel for the crucial Euro 2008 qualifier will not visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, an English Football Association official has said.
But hundreds of English Jews are expected to descend on Israel for the game under the banners of various groups including the Zionist Federation, JNF and Maccabi GB who have all planned various activities for the Jewish fans including trips to the capital.
With less than a month to go till the March 24 match excitement is mounting in Israel. The Israelis know that a good result against England will put them in a good position to qualify for their first major tournament since the 1970 World Cup finals in Mexico.
Israel has never played England in a competitive match before and this will be the first time England has played in Israel for many years.
But although the England squad visited a German concentration camp while in Germany for last summer's World Cup, Football Association director of corporate affairs Simon Johnson said the England players will not be taking time out of their schedule to visit Yad Vashem while in Israel.
The England team will only be in Israel for a couple of days and will leave soon after the match to fly to Andorra where they will play a second qualifier in a week. Israel defeated Andorra 3-1 back in September, but England will not be treating any of the teams in its group lightly and Johnson said it was important for the players to focus on the match.
Thousands of English coming
Maccabi GB is one of a number of groups bringing English Jews to Israel for the game. A Maccabi spokesperson said they felt it was a good opportunity to encourage people to increase their connection with Israel and Maccabi has organised both a week-long and weekend trip for their supporters.
Maccabi has created a strong connection with the English FA and will host a Friday night dinner for England fans and trip to Yad Vashem.
The Zionist Federation is also organising a trip which will include a panel discussion debating the effect sports can have on the peace process.
The FA has had strong links with the Israeli FA, boosted last year with a visit to Israel by an FA delegation which included former Liverpool and England star John Barnes to launch the Israel kick racism out of football campaign.
There are fears, however, that not as many England fans as expected will be in Israel to see the game. FA spokesman Andrin Cooper told JC Sport last week that there are still 1,000 tickets left for England fans.
"We have sold 3,500 of our 4,500 allocation and there are still two weeks for England members to purchase their tickets," Cooper said. "There is no country in the world with the level of support we have and the dedication and commitment of our fans is there for all to see."
Mark Perryman, head of the London branch of England supporters, told the JC he feels that England fans are looking forward to the trip.
"Tel Aviv is the destination England fans are most excited about. The place is in the news almost every day and is somewhere most of our supporters have never visited as they do not consider it a holiday destination, despite its huge historical significance," Perryman said.
By Jeremy Last, European Jewish News
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