The president of UEFA had nothing but praise for Israel, the host of this year’s UEFA Under-21 championship tournament, at a press conference earlier this week.
“The stadiums were wonderful and well organized, the pitches excellent and the atmosphere in the stadiums was great with many families and young children attending. That is exactly the type of tournament that I like to see,” Platini said. “I would like there to be a world where one can play football peacefully, even though I know the local context.”
Addressing the controversy surrounding Israel’s hosting the tournament, which was protested by several anti-Israel groups, Platini said he believes Israel has the right just like any of the other 53 UEFA member nations to host the tournament.
“I would prefer people not to take football hostage,” he said. “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 organization such as ours should focus on the development of football and leave politics to the politicians.”