UEFA president Michel Platini has praised Israel for their hosting of the U21 European Chmapionships, adding he refuses to allow football to get dragged into politics.
The 13-day tournament, which saw Spain crowned champions after beating Italy 4-2 in the final in Jerusalem, was generally heralded as being a success, with Platini adding his praise for the host country.
He said: “The stadiums were wonderful and well organised, the pitches excellent and the atmosphere in the stadiums was great with many families with young children attending. That is exactly the type of tournament that I like to see.”
And despite there beign a politically-charged build-up to the tournament, which saw calls from footballers and anti-Israel protestors for the competition to be moved from the Jewish state, Platini said he’s of the belief that while football can be used as a platform for peace, football and politics shold be kept separate.
He said: “I would like there to be a world where one can play football peacefully, even though I know the local context … Often (soccer) is used for political, economic, communication reasons, reasons of image … It can be taken hostage … because it attracts a lot of media and journalists. I would prefer people not to take football hostage. We had problems with people from Palestine who didn’t want us to come. It’s their right to demonstrate but we also think it’s our right to do what is good for football and not for politics.
“I want children in Israel to play football as they do in other countries and I will not be dragged into political issues because an organisation such as ours should focus on the development of football and leave politics to the politicians.”