Brussels Rejects Hosting Belgium-Israel Football Match

Brussels city authorities say the sporting event could provoke mass demonstrations over Gaza

Brussels has declined to host a Nations League match between Israel and Belgium in September due to concerns over potential protests related to the Gaza conflict, city officials announced on Wednesday.

Belgium is grouped with France, Italy, and Israel in Group A2 of the UEFA Nations League. The City of Brussels received a request from the Royal Belgian Football Association (KBVB) to host the Belgium-Israel match on September 6th.

For months, Brussels authorities have engaged in discussions with the federal government, law enforcement, and the KBVB to assess the feasibility of hosting the match at King Baudouin Stadium.

On Wednesday, they declared that “Considering the dire situation in the Middle East, the Brussels City Council deems it impossible to organize a high-risk match within its territory.” 

“The Red Devils’ matches have always embodied unity and togetherness. The humanitarian and security crisis in Gaza and its ramifications compel the (city) to inform the URBSFA (Belgian Football Federation) that hosting this match at the Stade Roi Baudouin is not possible,” stated Brussels’ first alderman Benoit Hellings.

Anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian demonstrations have become a recurring event in the Belgian capital since the commencement of the Gaza war.

The URBSFA indicated that they would have accepted holding the match at King Baudouin Stadium behind closed doors but expressed deep regret over Brussels’ decision to reject the game entirely.

The federation, according to France 24, revealed that they are in communication with various Belgian cities and security agencies regarding finding an alternate venue. The city of Louvain has reportedly already indicated that it would also not host the match.

An Israeli football federation spokesperson, Shlomi Barzel, informed AFP: “This is a matter that concerns Belgium, it’s not our problem.”

Brussels’ decision follows a similar announcement made by the city of Lodz in Poland on Monday. Citing security concerns, Lodz also stated that it would not host games for the Israeli team Maccabi Haifa for their matches in the third-tier UEFA Europa Conference League.

Meanwhile, FIFA, the global governing body for soccer, has been grappling with a Palestinian proposal to suspend Israel from international competitions. FIFA asserted that they require an expert evaluation to determine if Israel’s actions violate the organization’s regulations. The organization has been criticized for its swift action in banning Russian teams from competitions in response to the Ukraine conflict.