In a striking display of unity, the Israeli and Polish under-21 national football teams conducted an impromptu moment of silence prior to their European qualifier in Lodz, Poland. This act was a response to the severe October 7 attack by Hamas, which had a profound effect on both Israeli society and its sporting events. Despite the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) denying a formal request for such a tribute, the teams independently decided to pay their respects to the victims.
A Quiet Start to a Charged Match
As the game commenced, players from both teams stood still in formation for the first minute, their silence echoing through the stadium. This poignant moment reflected the widespread impact of the conflict on the Israeli soccer community, from local leagues to international competitions.
The Ripple Effect on Israeli Sports
The war’s consequences have rippled through all levels of Israeli soccer. Israel’s senior national team had to play its qualifying matches against Romania and Andorra outside of Israel. Additionally, Israeli professional teams Maccabi Haifa and Maccabi Tel Aviv are scheduled to play their upcoming home games in Serbia due to the ongoing conflict.
A Symbol of Suffering and Solidarity
Eli Dasa, captain of Israel’s national team, highlighted the human cost of the conflict during a press conference in Hungary. He presented the shoe of a child currently held hostage in Gaza, emphasizing the personal tragedies behind the headlines. This imagery has been widely adopted across various sports as a symbol of solidarity with those affected by the war.
Sports as a Platform for Raising Awareness
The issue has transcended football, with teams in other sports also expressing their support. The Israeli basketball team Maccabi Raanana, during their U.S. tour, wore shirts featuring photos of hostages. Similarly, the Yeshiva University basketball team sported t-shirts with the same imagery in a game against New York University, underscoring the widespread impact of the conflict and the role of sports in raising awareness about humanitarian crises.