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Israel to host Under 21 European Championships

    Israel will host the European Under 21 football championship finals in 2013.

    Israel’s bid was awarded the tournament during the first round of voting by the Uefa Executive Committee in Switzerland on Thursday.

    One of five candidates bidding to stage the tournament, Israel fought off the challenge of England, Wales, Bulgaria, Czech Republic.

    The Israel bid received eight votes, the Czech Republic five votes while England, Wales and Bulgaria each received no votes.

    This is the most important Uefa national team tournament after the Euro for full international teams, and by far the most important sporting tournament Israel would have ever held.

    Israel FA chairman Avi Luzon, who is a member of the Uefa Executive Committee said: "I could write a book about how hard we have worked to win this vote.

    "I'm as excited as when my first son was born. This is an unprecedented achievement for Israeli football."

    Israel will automatically qualify for the eight team finals and the draw for the qualification groups will take place next Thursday. Israel has only once previously reached the Euro Under 21 finals which are held every two years - in 2007.

    The venues were not detailed in the bid but Israel has told Uefa that new stadia will be completed in Haifa, Netanya and Petach Tikvah in time for the tournament. The Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem will also host matches.

    Israel was firm favourite to host Euro 2011, this summer's Under 21 finals, but when the vote took place two years ago at the height of the global economic crisis, Uefa delegates switched to the more conservative choice of Denmark.

    The selection of Israel is part of Uefa and Fifa policy of promoting developing football nations as seen when Russia and Qatar were chosen to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cup finals.

    Israelis can now look forward to a festival of sport in the summer of 2013 with Euro Under 21 finals in June followed by the 19th Maccabiah Games a month later.

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