Thursday’s UEFA Europa League match between Israel’s Maccabi Haifa and FK Zeljeznicar Sarajevo of Bosnia has been postponed after the intervention of Israel’s Ministry of Health.
In a letter sent to the Israeli Football Association, a copy of which was seen by Xinhua, the ministry wrote that five players from the visiting team who landed in Israel had tested positive for COVID-19.
The tests were taken by the ministry on all the Zeljeznicar players who traveled to Israel, after six other players had tested positive before the trip and remained in Bosnia.
“The results mean that there is an ongoing outbreak of COVID-19 among the team players and therefore conducting the scheduled match constitutes a health hazard,” the letter said.
The ministry also allowed Zeljeznicar to return to Bosnia without any further delay by a private charter flight, with the plane crew taking the necessary precautions.
The single-leg match, in the first qualifying round of the 2020-21 Europa League, was to take place behind closed doors at Sammy Ofer Stadium in Israel’s northern city of Haifa.
European football’s governing body UEFA has not yet set a new date for the match, with the possibility that the Israeli team will be awarded a 3-0 walkover.
“We understand and accept the ministry’s decision, as this is a difficult period of uncertainty. Health is above all,” read a statement from Maccabi Haifa.