Israel v Wales (Euro 2016 qualifier)

sammy ofer stadium interior

Paul CorkreyFSF Cymru’s Paul Corkrey (left) has been out to Israel ahead of Wales’ Euro 2016 qualifier (Saturday 28th March 2015, 7.45pm, Sammy Ofer Stadium, Haifa). Over the coming months he'll update this rolling blog with the latest information and images. Corky explains more below...

I have just come back from a reconnaissance trip to Israel and was really surprised to be honest; it was not what I expected. I have been to most European cities and this felt as safe or even safer than most of them. The fact that they were involved in a war last year cannot be dismissed and some fans may opt to give this game a miss but I can honestly say I would have no reservations taking my family there.

You should expect to travel to a coastal location with mid to high temperatures, there are great beaches to enjoy and you should pack your cases with that sort of trip in mind. It is expensive with London prices but there are many “happy hours” in pubs that ease the cost, but expect to pay at least £4 a pint.

Haifa is quiet in comparison to Tel Aviv and very hilly, although they do have a port and beautiful beach area. I would highly recommend fans stay in Tel Aviv and travel to Haifa on the day, possibly five or six hours before kick-off. It takes one hour by coach from Tel Aviv and due to the game being played on the Sabbath (Saturday) there will be very little open and hardly any public transport other than taxis.

We have organised coaches from Tel Aviv on matchday and some pubs who will do happy hour prices, they are even happy to open all night on our return to Tel Aviv after the match and we intend to make Mike’s Place our FSF base for the trip, this will also be the place to collect your tickets for the coaches. Email paul.corkrey@fsf.org.uk if you want to book places on the coach, it will cost £18 return. You can get a taxi and the cost will be approximately £80-£100 each way.

I have also met up with a travel agent to get hotel places at a reduced rate and she will contact me with prices for hotels ranging from the best to budget, if you want me to help you with this please get in touch. She will also be able to arrange excursions for groups to Jerusalem or the Dead Sea on the Friday or Sunday.

They are also discussing a charter plane for the fans from Cardiff to Tel Aviv, Thursday to Monday. I will have more information about this soon and we were looking at £400+ per person but nothing is finalised just yet. If that is still the case by the end of the year I think people should continue to get the best deals at the cheapest prices. Do not rely on this charter, it is very much in the planning stages and not guaranteed to happen.

Update - Friday 16th January:

The kick-off for this game is confirmed as 6pm British time which is 8pm local time in Haifa. Lucy Mason, ticketing and membership manager at the FAW, is in the process of finalising details with the Israel FA and is hopeful that tickets will be able to go on sale at the end of the month.

She is unsure at this moment if they will be able to sell it online or if we will send the application forms out by post again.

We have access to more than 2,000 tickets; but the FAW thought there would be more like 1,000-1,500 travelling over. The main thing is we have plenty of tickets and on a sale or return basis so we don’t have to commit to a smaller number.

There will be no sales in Haifa though, as normal, all sales for the Wales end must be in advance, through the FAW office. Only members can obtain tickets and the membership is still open and costs £10.

Mark Evans, head of the International Department at FAW, along with Lucy, is planning to visit Israel around the end of this month. If there are any more updates or changes to the above they will inform us on their return.

There will be no specific charter plane now as far as we are aware; most fans have booked up with easy jet from Luton or with British airways from Heathrow.

When you arrive at Tel Aviv airport you will receive an entry card that you keep with you, you will also receive an exit card on departure from the country, this means your passport will not be “stamped”.

Getting from the airport to Tel Aviv takes about 25 minutes and you can add another 50 minutes onto that if you are going directly to Haifa. Taxis are quite expensive, it’s recommended to avoid the use of taxi services that are not permitted to transport passengers at Ben Gurion Airport, and to approach the taxi dispatcher instead.​

A ride to Tel Aviv from the airport should be around 250 NIS (£42) Make sure you ask the driver to put the trip on the meter. Taxi to Haifa would cost 553 NIS (£92) if there are two passengers and two suitcases. Every ride from Ben Gurion Airport incurs a surcharge of 5 NIS (90p).

Night fares include an extra 25% charge on night journeys. These run daily from 21:01 until 05:29 as well as on Shabbat and Jewish holidays. (Friday from 17:00 until 05:29 the following day.)

Trains are very regular and virtually 24 hours a day except on Friday when they run from 0.53 in the morning until 2.30pm - they resume Saturday at 7.26pm.

There is a train station at the airport, and there are several stops in Tel-Aviv. the "Tel-Aviv Savidor Centre“ railway station is also a central bus station so people could get on a bus to get closer to the hotels or grab a taxi which will cost less from there. 

Train tickets cost 16 NIS (£2.70) Single to Tel Aviv, 25 minute trip. Or 41 NIS (£7) To Haifa which is a one hour, 25 minute trip.

Alternatively, fans could use a "sherut". A sherut is a shared taxi, a very popular way of travelling in Israel and in particular to and from Ben Gurion. From the airport, sherut run to Jerusalem and Haifa, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

Please note Sheruts do not run from the airport to Tel Aviv. They can be found on Level G outside Arrivals, and there are minibuses which take around ten passengers either to the main bus station in the city, or direct to the passengers’ destination door. They will also pick you up from your front door for the return journey to the airport if you book in advance.

Update - Thursday, 12th February

Lucy Mason and Mark Evans have now returned from the final site visit in preparation for the Israel game.

Tickets can be collected in Israel providing they have been pre-booked and paid for, Lucy will be based at the Dan Panorama Hotel in the Carmel district of Haifa. The address is 107, Hanassi Street. It’s fairly close to the Metro/subway that goes down to the port, so if people need to get to her up there they can - we think a taxi is the best option from the port area.

The official ticket collections point will be the Away Fans Ticket Office at the stadium on match day. It’s just off entrance K which is the away end entrance, not even a minute’s walk away; she needs to confirm the exact times she will be there from, but it’s most likely to be a couple of hours before kick-off until just after.

She is Hoping tickets can go on sale at the end of this week online and through the FAW booking line 0844 248 1876. She will email all gold members and send a letter to all members that they don’t have an email address for letting them know how to apply, as they are trying to move away from the paper application forms for away games. It may take until Monday though.

The Israel FA has agreed to share with us the details of any tickets not activated on entry at the ground. FAW will keep a list of which ticket numbers are allocated to which members and will communicate this to fans when they send their tickets out. Any tickets not activated at the ground for the game may result in that member not receiving the loyalty for the match, as it will suggest to FAW that they didn’t travel over.

Israel tickets are £14. There are no concessionary prices or more expensive tickets for better views. There are booking fees applicable as FAW are now moving all away games online, it’s the same as the home games so £1 per ticket and 50p transaction charge. Special delivery is optional; Fans can collect if they prefer – no change to this.

Passports

Please keep them safe at all times, if you lose them it can be expensive and time consuming to get you home. Good tips is to scan your passport page, the one which contains your personal information and e mail it to yourself or simply write it all down and keep it separately this information could speed up your application for an Emergency Travel Document (ETD).

The British Embassy is already preparing for our visit and has told us that they will do their best to get fans home on the flights they’ve booked. Hopefully nobody will require this service.

An Embassy spokesperson said: “We’ll have staff on standby on the Sunday to come to the Embassy and issue Emergency Travel Documents. We’ll also be prepared to issue more ETDs than usual on the Monday.

"Fans will be able to book an ETD appointment by calling the usual Embassy phone number as this will go through to our out of hour’s service during the weekend. However, if anyone does need this service on Saturday or Sunday they will have to pay an additional call out fee and the Consular Section at the Embassy building won’t be manned unless needed – we won’t be offering a walk in service”

All this information including phone numbers will be in the FSF information booklets that the FAW will send out with match tickets.

Final update - Wednesday, 4th March

Both British and Israeli embassies have been extremely helpful in the lead up to this game and they have contributed towards the production of our FSF Cymru information booklet.

We have identified a problem with delays at the passport control to enter Israel and we are hopeful that this will be rectified when our flights arrive at the airport. It is really a question of more booths being opened to accommodate our arrival. Don’t forget, your passport will not be stamped, you will receive an entry and exit voucher instead.

Fans match, charity work and tourism

Neil Dymock has organised a fans match for the Friday afternoon, please contact him if you are available to play, you will just need your boots, and we will supply the full Welsh kit. All players will meet at Mike’s Place on the sea front to travel to the venue, spectators are very welcome to come along and support the lads.

During the trip Welsh fans’ charity Gôl will be visiting Shanti House in Tel Aviv, and the Desert Shanti Youth Village, which offer shelter and guidance to homeless young people. Shanti House was established more than 30 years ago and helped 36,000 children with family and social problems. Funds raised will also help a pre-school playgroup in Urif in the Palestinian Territories.

Apart from the football there is plenty to see and do in Israel and the best advice is to ask at your hotel reception about excursions to the various you can visit from Tel Aviv. Jerusalem, Nazareth, the Dead Sea, Masada, the old city of Jaffa and so many more, but with regards to Bethlehem, it is not considered part of Israel, and is not very easy to travel to, you would have to go through a few border points but I know a few fans will still want to make a visit.

Travel

There are now more than 800 tickets sold to Welsh fans for this game and we have organised coach travel for 400 of them from Tel Aviv to Haifa on match day – all of our coaches are now full. Everyone who has booked must meet at Mike’s Place on the sea front from 10am on matchday. This will be e mailed to everyone who is travelling on our coaches.

You can get there by taxi from Tel Aviv, there is no public transport available on the Saturday. After the match, trains will be running and you can get a train from near the stadium back to Tel Aviv.

The FSF Cymru information booklet will be sent out with your match tickets in about 14 days’ time unless you have decided to collect in person. The booklet will be online by Friday this week on the FSF website.

Gallery of images from Sammy Ofer Stadium (if you're reading this on a mobile and having problems seeing the images, try this link):

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