Brussels declines to host match between Belgium and Israel for security reasons amid war in Gaza

BRUSSELS (AP) — The city of Brussels says it won’t host a UEFA Nations League match between Belgium and Israel in September because of the “dramatic situation in Gaza” that creates a security headache for city officials.

Brussels’ first alderman Benoit Hellings said on Wednesday the city considers it impossible to organize the match, which was scheduled to take place at the Stade Roi Baudouin on Sept. 6.

Hundreds of pro-Palestinian demonstrators have repeatedly taken to the streets of Brussels since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas last year. Last month, ticket sales for the Belgium-Israel match were paused because of security concerns.

Hellings said that Brussels officials discussed thoroughly the possibility of hosting the match with the federal government, police forces and the Belgian soccer federation (URBSFA).

“Today, it is clear that the announcement of such a match being held in our capital will undoubtedly provoke major (counter-) demonstrations, compromising the safety of spectators, players, residents and our police forces alike,” he said in a statement.

“The Red Devils’ matches have always been moments of unity and togetherness. The humanitarian and security situation in Gaza and its repercussions force the (city) to inform the URBSFA that it is not possible to organize this match at the Stade Roi Baudouin.”

Ticket sales for other Belgium home matches in the tournament against France on Oct. 14 and Italy on Nov. 14 are going ahead as planned.

Belgium is currently playing at the European Championship in Germany. It lost its first group game against Slovakia.

Brussels has been on security alert even before the war in Gaza started, with Belgium being hit repeatedly by extremist attacks. Last year, a soccer game between Belgium and Sweden was suspended at halftime following a gunman fatally shooting two Swedes in Brussels before kickoff.


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