The friendly match between Norway and Israel scheduled for tonight has been cancelled after a decision made by the Norwegian authorities.
Celtic had four players involved who could’ve featured in this evening’s contest. Hatem Elhamed and Nir Bitton are currently away with the Israeli national team, whilst Moi Elyounoussi and Kristoffer Ajer are currently involved with Norway.
The announcement was made this morning by the Norwegian Football Association (NFF) followed by the official Israeli FA Twitter account. The NFF stated this morning that a letter from the nation’s Health Director encouraged them to cancel the game due to the risk involved.
The Israeli FA then tweeted: “The match between the Norwegian and Israeli teams that was scheduled to take place tonight was canceled in accordance with the decisions of the authorities in Norway.”
Interestingly, Israel striker Munas Dabbur had tested positive for Covid-19 earlier this week, but had not trained with the squad before he had done so. Gro Tvedt, the Norwegian Football Association’s Communications Manager had previously stated that the game would be able to go ahead regardless (VG).
However, in the end, the game has been postponed after the Norwegian FA were seemingly pressured by the government.
No reason for friendlies to go ahead during a pendemic
It must be stressed that Dabbur’s positive test has not been confirmed as the sole reason for the postponement, even if it may have been. However, you simply have to question the logic in playing friendly matches during a pandemic.
There has already been widespread debate regarding whether it’s appropriate to play international football at all. Matches such as Euro 2020 playoffs and Nations League encounters have been questioned as to why they’re going ahead. Playing games that have no meaning to them is just a recipe for disaster.
So from a Celtic perspective, it’s great to see that tonight’s game won’t be going ahead. It minimises the risk for Ajer and Elyounoussi in particular, who now won’t be coming into contact with the Israeli side. Ajer may not have featured due to injury, but Moi looked a cert for game-time.
However, Bitton and Elhamed will undoubtedly be the main concerns moving forward. They’re due to travel to the Czech Republic before facing Scotland next week in what was originally supposed to be an international triple-header.
As supporters, all we can do is hope that Dabbur’s positive case isn’t going to spread, regardless of whether he trained with the squad or not. Given what happened to Bitton and Elhamed last month, Celtic fans are right to be worried regardless of any potential immunity.
The four Nations League matches involving Norway and Israel are still scheduled to take place. Hopefully, things go smoothly and no Celtic players become infected again.