Maccabi Tel Aviv
Ground: Bloomfield Stadium
Date: 20th February 2014
Match: Maccabi Tel Aviv - Basel 0-0 (UEFA Europa League)
Attendance: 13 519
In 2013 I attended 59 matches at 54 different grounds. However, I didn´t visit any new countries and I have instead decided to visit as many new countries as possible in 2014. In recent years I have been to Germany/France in February but this year I wanted to visit a "warm" country. Once the draw for the knock-out stages in the Europa League was made I looked at my options and decided to travel to Israel. Being a new as well as a "warm" destination it clicked all the boxes. The best team in Israel at the moment is Maccabi Tel Aviv and on Thursday 20 February they were hosting FC Basel in the first leg of the round of 32 in the Europa League. Once tickets went on general sale it only took two hours for them to sell-out. With the help of Google translate I manged to get hold of one though. Combined with matches on Friday and Saturday in the Israeli Leagues I could visit at least three matches on this trip. With Israel being a country with plenty of interesting and historical places I decided to spend five days in the Holy Land. I left home by 8.10 on Tuesday morning and 11 hours later I was at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv. Flying via Istanbul with Turkish Airlines I actually had quite a pleasant journey. No country spend as much on security as Israel and already at the airport in Istanbul this was shown. Passengers to Tel Aviv had to pass an extra security check and had to answer some questions. Once at Ben Gurion airport things went relatively smoothly and shortly after 9pm I was at my hotel in central Tel Aviv.
Having travelled all day on Tuesday I decided to take it easy on Wednesday. First thing I did was to go the Leaan ticket office in central Tel Aviv to pick up my ticket. The people in the office were very friendly/pleased when they realized I had to come all the way from Sweden for this match. Bloomfield Stadium, the home of Maccabi Tel Aviv as well as Hapoel Tel Aviv and Bnei Yehuda, is situated in Jaffa (Yafo) in southern Tel Aviv. This ancient (4 000 years old and mentioned in the Bible) city used to be a city of its own but is now considered to be part of Tel Aviv. Walking around the narrow alleys and seeing so many different people was quite nice. There was a huge flea market and people tried to sell me all kind of things. Jaffa is a picturesque part of Tel Aviv and well worth a visit. After a few exterior pictures of Bloomfield Stadium I then spent the afternoon in a restaurant before making the panoramic bus tour of Tel Aviv. In the evening I took it easy and was already looking forward to the next day. Kick-off at Bloomfield Stadium was at 22.05 so plenty of time for touristing before then. I had booked a day trip to Jerusalem and the Dead Sea and knew I had an interesting day ahead.
My alarm buzzed at 06.00 on Thursday morning. An hour later I was picked up by Bein Harim tours. We were in Jerusalem around 9am and the following hours were one of the most interesting in my life. Jerusalem is a city with so much history, so many holy sites it felt like walking in a historical movie. The Western wall is the most holy site in Judaism, next to it is the golden dome (Dome of the Rock), the third most holy site in Islam. Standing at the Plaza looking down at these sites felt overwhelming. Wearing a Kippah I went down to the wall myself putting in a wish written down on a piece of paper. 30 minutes later we walked on Via Dolorosa before visiting the place where Jesus was crucified and the laid to rest. Overwhelming was the word! In the afternoon we drove on the West Bank and down to the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is more than 400 m below sea level and on the other side of the lake is Jordan. There is so much salt (33 %) everyone can float. It felt a bit surreal to be honest. You have to make sure you don´t swallow any water or get it in your eyes though. It was 24 degrees by the Dead Sea and it was certainly more comfortable for me than on recent trips abroad. Around 18.30 I was then back at my hotel in Tel Aviv.
I had something to eat at my hotel before making the short walk to Ben Yehuda street where I boarded bus #10 taking me to Jaffa. The flea market was now empty and was being cleaned up for the next day. Once outside the ground it was yet again a great experience to feel the buzz of international football. My seat was in row 23 in the stand opposite the main stand. When security realized I was a foreigner they asked if I was "a friend of Maccabi". I replied I was from Sweden visiting Israel for football and touristing. Everyone smiled and I was let in. Already 90 minutes before kick-off there was plenty of fans inside Bloomfield Stadium. In total 13 500 (350 from Basel) packed the ground this evening. As kick-off approached the atmosphere was getting better and better and with 15 minutes to go the ground was full and people were standing up singing. Brilliant atmosphere and throughout the 90 minutes everyone in three of the stands were standing up! Unfortunately the match was a bit dull and finished 0-0. Nevertheless a great evening for me and I can warmly recommend visiting a Maccabi Tel Aviv match. They sell-out most games so buy the ticket in advance. At 00.15 I boarded the last bus back to central Tel Aviv and a very long day came to an end for me. 20 February 2014 must be one of the most interesting days of my life so far though. So many impressions.
Pictures from my visit to Jerusalem can be found at: Jerusalem (sightseeing pictures).
Pictures from my visit to the Dead Sea can be found at: Dead Sea (sightseeing pictures)
Pictures from Tel Aviv:
View of Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv Marina
Yitzak Rabin Memorial
View from my hotel
Pictures from Jaffa (Yafo):
Houses in Jaffa
St Peter´s Church
Pictures from Maccabi Tel Aviv - Basel:
Bloomfield Stadium, rear of the West Stand
Rear of the Southeast corner
Rear of the Southwest corner
Young Maccabi fan
Scarfs are out
View of play