The referees could be seen waiting patiently for the game to start once the minute came to an end.
This past Saturday, meanwhile, saw an emotionally-charged 2024 European Championship qualifier that saw Israel host Romania in Felcsut, a Hungarian village of around 1,900 people.
While Romania won 2-1, Israeli fans packed the stands at Pancho Arena, many chanting slogans and waving flags. Some staged a demonstration for the hostages still being held by Hamas, raising banners that said, “Men, women, children murdered,” and chanting “Bring them home.”
Yuval Nakibli, a 25-year-old from Israel, told the Associated Press that she felt it was important to support the team.
“We can show what’s really important, and it’s to bring all the hostages home right now and finish that terrible war,” she said.
Possible basketball ‘bubble’
While soccer is a popular sport in Israel, basketball may be even more popular. Unlike soccer, there is no immediate plan for the country’s top basketball league to return to action.
One idea being floated is playing the schedule in a “bubble” similar to the one the NBA implemented at the height of the pandemic. Hadera or Afula, cities seen as low-risk for potential rocket attacks, are among the proposed sites. Another plan calls for such a bubble to take place abroad in either Greece, Cyprus or Serbia, nations that have the basketball facilities needed to host games. Like soccer, the games would feature no fans.
At the same time, Maccabi Tel Aviv, Israel’s most-decorated basketball team, has used Belgrade for their home games in the EuroLeague, Europe’s top club tournament.
Hapoel Tel Aviv, meanwhile, have had their home games in the EuroCup, the continent’s second-tier basketball competition, postponed. However, they played their European away games, securing three wins and one defeat.
Israel’s club teams, both in soccer and basketball, participate in Europe’s continental tournaments to avoid games against Middle Eastern nations.
Competing abroad and another Munich ‘72
But competing in other parts of the world has also been dangerous. Israel’s fencing team had to evacuate their hotel in Bern, Switzerland, recently due to a bomb threat. After six hours of waiting in the dressing room of the sports hall where they had competed, they received word from authorities that nothing had been found.
The country’s artistic swimming team posted on Instagram their fears ahead of the World Swimming Championships to take place in Qatar this coming February, saying they are not likely to participate due to safety concerns.
At the same time, officials from Luxembourg, Czechia, Slovakia, Azerbaijan, the United Kingdom, Germany and the Scandinavian countries are among those urging the World Aquatic Federation to relocate the tournament.
Israel has refrained from doing so, even though some of their athletes fear taking part.
“We are scared that Munich 1972 will happen again,” the team wrote, referring to the terror attack against Israel’s Olympians 40 years ago.