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סיפורו של גראונדהופר שוודי על נסיעה לישראל

בשנת 2014 גראונהופר משוודיה הגיעה ל-3 משחקים בארץ:
מכבי תל אביב נגד באזל
הכוח ר"ג נגד הפועל פ"ת
רמת השרון נגד הפועל ב"ש

"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."

In Israel matches in Liga Leumit (level 2) are played on Friday afternoon and Monday evening. For logistical reasons I wanted to visit Hakoah Amidar Ramat Gan vs Hapoel Petah Tikva and was pleased to find out this match was confirmed to kick-off at 15.00 on Friday afternoon. There was a, more or less, direct bus (#204) from my hotel to the ground. Matches in Liga Alef (level 3) are also played on Friday afternoon and since my bus went past Hatikva Stadium on its way to Winter Stadium I was hoping to do a double this day. Unfortunately the match at Hatikva Stadium, Hapoel Kfar Shalem vs Hapoel Marmorek, was confirmed as an 14.00 kick-off. Only one match for me but with both teams doing well in Liga Leumit I wasn´t too disappointed. Having had a very long Thursday I slept late on Friday and strolled in the city centre. The temperature would climb to 24 °C so a warm day ahead at Winter Stadium. Around 13.20 I boarded the bus from Ben Yehuda Street and was supposed to be at Winter Stadium 25 minutes later. Traffic was terrible though and the journey took almost 50 minutes.

Winter Stadiun has a capacity of around 8 000 (all-seated) and host Hakoah Amidar Ramat Gan as well as local rivals Hapoel Ramat Gan. Both ends of the ground are "fence only" but the West(main) Stand looks quite impressive. Hapoel Petak Tiva brought around 500 fans and were allocated the East Stand. As I understand it this stand is only used when the away team bring plenty of fans. The two-tiered West Stand is more than enough for most games. I wasn´t expecting to see so many inside the ground and was pleasantly surprised. Hakoah Maccabi Ramat Gan was established in 1959 by a merger of Hakoah Tel Aviv and Maccabi Ramat Gan. In 2005 Liga Artzit club Maccabi Ramat Amidar merged into Hakoah, with the club's name changed to Hakoah Maccabi Amidar Ramat Gan, though the "Maccabi" part has since been dropped.

A German groundhopper, Christopher from Braunschweig, showed up as well and we chatted for most of the match. The match itself was quite poor for around 60 minutes. Hakoah then made it 1-0 and from now on the visitors from Petah Tikva pressed on for a goal and in stoppage time they equalised. An ok match for the two groundhoppers present. After the final whistle I sneaked over to the other stand and could take some pictures of the West Stand. As soon as I left the stand it was locked up. Since there are no buses in Israel during the Sabbath (sunset Friday to sunset Saturday) we had to take a taxi back to central Tel Aviv. Tomorrow I go to Bethlehem before finishing off the trip with a top division match at Grundman Stadium in Ramat HaSharon."

" On Saturday morning my alarm yet again buzzed at 6am. After visiting Jerusalem and the Dead Sea two days ago it was now time to visit another holy place, Bethlehem. Bethlehem is situated on the West Bank and is under control of the Palestinian authority. After picking up more visitors in Jerusalem our mini-bus crossed the security barrier and around 9am I was in the city centre of Bethlehem. Being the birthplace of Jesus this is of course a must visit for tourists in this region and outside the Church of Nativity there were indeed plenty of tourists. There was a ceremony inside the church and we had to wait almost 45 minutes before going in down to the Grotto. The Grotto of the Nativity, an underground cave located beneath the basilica, enshrines the site where Jesus is said to have been born. The exact spot is marked beneath an altar by a 14-pointed silver star set into the marble floor and surrounded by silver lamps Another fascinating moment on this trip! From the church our Palestinian guide then took us via bus to the Shepherd's field, the fields with the shepherds who saw the Star of Nativity. Plenty of interesting things to see here as well. We then returned to Jerusalem and I was out in a taxi back to Tel Aviv. My driver was Arab and gave me a very interesting lesson about the Israel/Palestine conflict etc.

The match on Saturday afternoon was a match in the top division in Israel, Hapoel Nir Ramat HaSharon vs Hapoel Be'er Sheva at Grundman Stadium in Ramat HaSharon. With the match starting at 17.00 there were of course no buses but help was on the way. Christopher, the German I met yesterday, stayed with an Israeli and this person gave us a free lift to the ground. With Ramat HaSharon being 15 km from central Tel Aviv I saved a lot of Taxi-money! Grundman Stadium is a very basic ground with a capacity of 4 500. There are only stands on two sides of the ground and the one on the east side is a very small one. The West Stand has a capacity of around 3 000 and for this match it was packed with away supporters. Hapoel Be'er Sheva are currently second in the table and brought more than 2000 fans to this match, impressive. I ended up with the away fans and had a nice Saturday evening in Ramat HaSharon. As I was searched outside the ground and the steward realized I was a foreigner and ask where I was from. I replied Sweden but he didn´t seem to understand that word. I then said Zlatan Ibrahimovic and now he knew what I meant. Suecia, Suecia he said and then shook my hand and said Welcome!

The first half of this match was boring and ended 0-0. In the second half the visitors from Be'er Sheva played really well and could score four goals to win the match 4-0. Plenty of singing from the away fans as I left the ground and even though the ground was nothing to get excited about I was still pleased with my visit. Four goals and 2000 away fans made sure of that. After the match the buses were running again and after 55 minutes with the bus I was back in central Tel Aviv. My trip to Israel was coming to an end and this must be one of the best trips ever for me. So many interesting places to visit and the football is ok as well. Not even the fact I was held up for two hours at the airport (something in my bag indicated for something) could prevent me from being in a great mood all the way back home to Sweden."

 

 

 

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