Brussels refuses to host Belgium-Israel match over security fears

Brussels — Brussels has refused to host a Nations League football match between Israel and Belgium on September 6 because it could spark demonstrations, city authorities said on Wednesday.

They said holding such a match while the war in Gaza was continuing “will undoubtedly provoke large demonstrations and counterdemonstrations, compromising the safety of spectators, players, Brussels residents and also the police.”

The Belgian Football Federation said it would have accepted that the match, at the King Baudouin Stadium, take place behind closed doors, but it deeply regretted that the Belgian capital refused to host the game at all.

“We deplore the decision taken by the City of Brussels — which has a lot of experience of organizing big events — to not organize the match in our stronghold,” the federation said.

The federation said it was in contact with several cities and security services about finding an alternative venue.

The city of Louvain has already said it would not host the match.

A spokesperson for the Israeli football federation, Shlomi Barzel, told AFP: “This is a matter concerning Belgium; it’s not our problem.”

Concerns were likely raised by the attack in Brussels in October in which an Islamist gunman killed two Swedish football fans before a Euro 2024 qualifier between Belgium and Sweden, although the motive of the attack was not anti-Semitic.

France and Italy are in the same Nations League Group A2 as Belgium and Israel.