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Israel Reassures UEFA Over U-21 Amid Turmoil Wracking Egypt

With turmoil wracking its neighbours, The Israel Football Association (IFA) is seeking to pre-empt security concerns about its hosting of the 2013 Under-21 European Championship. Israel was last week awarded the hosting as mass anti-governments threw neighbouring Egypt into turmoil, protesters in Jordan demanded political change, political crisis erupted in Lebanon and Syria braced itself for possible anti-regime demonstrations. IFA Chief Executive Ori Shilo told members of UEFA that his country’s long-standing and demonstrated experience and ability in dealing with security made Israel ``probably the best and most safe place to host a sports event.'' Locked into a seemingly intractable dispute with the Palestinians as a result of its 43-year long occupation of Palestinian territory, Israel has developed model and at times controversial policies and procedures to address security and terrorism threats The U-21 championship is scheduled for June 2013 with matches scheduled to be played in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Netanya and Petah Tikva. In advance of the tournament, Israel is building new stadia in Haifa, Netanya and Petah Tikva and upgrading Tel Aviv’s 60-year old National Stadium. Although geographically located in the Middle East, Israel competes since 1994 in the European league after Arab states rejected it from the Asian confederation. Israel’s winning bid for the U-21 championship faced competition from England, Bulgaria, Wales and the Czech Republic. Israel previously hosted the European Under-16 tournament in 2000 and staged UEFA's annual Congress in Tel Aviv last year.

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