Israeli and Polish national soccer teams hold unauthorized moment of silence before European qualifying match
The Israeli and Polish under-21 national soccer teams hold an unofficial moment of silence during their Nov. 17 match in Lodz, Poland. (Screenshot: X/Julien Bahloul)

By Jacob Gurvis
November 22, 2023

(JTA) — Israel’s under-21 men’s national soccer team took the field on Friday for the first time since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack that killed and injured thousands and brought much of Israeli life, including sports, to a standstill.

The Union of European Football Associations, Europe’s football governing body, had reportedly rejected a request to hold an official moment of silence before the match between Israel and Poland. The two teams were facing off in a qualifying match in Lodz, Poland, for the 2025 European Under-21 Championships.

The teams ignored UEFA and held a moment of silence anyway.

For the first minute of the game, players on both teams remained in formation and did not move as the clock began to run. The stadium was quiet, too.

The war has impacted all of Israeli soccer, both in Israeli professional leagues and in European competition.

Israel’s senior national team played against Romania on Saturday and Andorra Tuesday in its own qualifying matches, though neither game was held in Israel. And two professional Israeli teams, Maccabi Haifa and Maccabi Tel Aviv, will be playing their upcoming home games in Serbia because of the war.

During a press conference in Hungary last week, Eli Dasa, captain of Israel’s national team, displayed the shoe of a child he said was among the more than 200 hostages being held by Hamas.

“It is hard to speak at the moment, but I don’t think that any of you can guess what is the story behind this shoe,” Dasa said. “This kid is in Gaza Strip at the moment with seven, seven people from his family… That’s all what’s left from his house. This left shoe. We wait for him here.”

Imagery of the hostages has been used by numerous teams across sports as an expression of solidarity since the war broke out. As the Israeli basketball team Maccabi Raanana toured the United States last month to play exhibition games against a handful of NBA teams, they sported shirts with the photos of hostages. And on Monday, the Yeshiva University basketball team wore similar t-shirts at their game against New York University.

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