Top soccer coach quits over Israeli ‘security situation’

AP (Aug. 26) – Maccabi Tel Aviv says its football coach has quit because of the “current security situation” in Israel.

The club says Oscar Garcia, who is Spanish, is to be replaced by Pako Ayestaran, another Spaniard. Ayestaran was previously an assistant coach at Liverpool and Valencia under Rafa Benitez.

Garcia’s resignation came two days before the second leg of the team’s Europa League playoff against Greek club Asteras Tripolis, scheduled to be played in Cyprus.

Israel is in the eighth week of a military campaign in the Gaza Strip. It has been accompanied by the firing of hundreds of rockets by the Palestinian Resistance at Israel, including some at Tel Aviv.

“You cannot do as if there is nothing happening,” said Maccabi general manager Jordi Cruyff, himself a former Barcelona midfielder and the son of Netherlands great Johan Cruyff. “Games are being canceled, the national team has to play abroad, all Israeli teams have had to play outside Israel.”

Israeli sports have been significantly affected by the Gaza war.

The local soccer season, due to kick off last weekend, was postponed, and the upcoming European Championship qualifier against Belgium, which was scheduled to be played in Jerusalem on Sept. 9, will either be played in another country or postponed.

Also, Israel’s Davis Cup playoff against Argentina, due to be played in Ramat Hasharon on Sept. 12-14, has been moved to Sunrise, Florida.

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