This should start any minute now (it’s 9:30 PM CET right now):
Maccabi Tel Aviv will host the first-ever Champions League group stage match in Israel when it plays Bayern Munich at Ramat Gan’s National Stadium today (live at 9:45 p.m. on Sport 5+).
For explanation: The Champions League is the most prestigious European soccer tournament besides the European Championship.
There is some context to Jonathan’s post; both teams had wanted the UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) to move the match to another day, but the organization refused without naming any reasons. Hubert Spiegel, President of the German Jewish Council criticized this decision sharply. In contrast to this the Post’s description of this affair is very mildly worded:
Bayern CEO Karl Heinz-Rummenigge said his team had no concern with traveling to Israel and that he would have liked to have had the match moved up one day to avoid playing on Erev Rosh Hashana.
“We supported Maccabi’s bid [to move the game up 24 hours] as we know how important this day is for the State of Israel. But for some reason UEFA refused to change the date. From what I was told, the stadium will be sold out, but if we would have had to host a match on Christmas Eve, I am certain we wouldn’t have been able to fill up our stadium.”
Maccabi coach Nir Klinger took the opportunity to urge fans that may be finding it difficult to decide whether to attend the historic game or not.
“For those who haven’t made up their minds yet, I can say – don’t miss the chance to support us,” he pleaded. “You can all arrive with a full stomach and enjoy a fantastic occasion.”
Maccabi is cautiously optimistic about their chances today; while it isn’t likely that they can win, it also wouldn’t be the first time a huge favorite is defeated by a underdog in the League either:
Despite the fact that Klinger won almost every trophy possible in Israeli soccer, he described his team’s achievement of reaching the Champions League group stage as even better. “It is the high point of my career, both as a player and a manager” he said.
“But from my experience I have learned that behind every peak hides another peak – so I have a lot to look forward to. It is the first time a Champions League match will be hosted here in Israel as before we were forced to sit and watch it on television.”
The coach and his captain, Liran Strauber, both admitted Maccabi was playing an underdog role. “It’s obvious because Bayern are clearly the favorites, being such a massive club with loads of experience,” Klinger said. “But I am certain that my players will not be surprised by anything and [will] even manage to find some weaknesses in the German side.”
This seems a bit dodgy and reminds of the Olympic Judo championship:
He [German coach Magath] also noted that Iranian striker Vahid Hashemian did not travel with the team, but did not attribute his absence to politics.
“We released [Hashemian] from the trip because of injury even though he wanted to travel. Whether he will play in the return leg or not, we will have to wait and see.”
Munich the better team win.
In other news, Bayer Leverkusen beats Real Madrid 3:0.