Ironi Nahariya’s European campaign is in danger of ending prematurely after the Shin Bet notified the club on Tuesday that it refuses to approve the team’s trip to Gaziantep, Turkey for next week’s Europe Cup round of 16 second leg.
Nahariya won the first leg in Israel by 21 points last week (96-75), but that victory could end up proving to be meaningless as a failure to show up for the return leg next Wednesday would send Gaziantep through to the next round by default.
Gaziantep is located around 50 kilometers from the border with Syria and the area has suffered repeatedly from both Kurdish and Islamic extremist insurgents over the past year, The Shin Bet is responsible for the safety of all Israeli teams while competing abroad and believes Nahariya could become a target in Gaziantep.
Nahariya appealed to FIBA Europe to move the game to another location, but European basketball’s governing body refused to do so. Minister of Culture and Sport Miri Regev has been part of the efforts to try and relocate the game, but believes that the Shin Bet can find a solution which would allow Nahariya to play the second leg even if it takes place in Gaziantep.
“Due to the far reaching consequences of Ironi Nahariya not showing up for the game should the request to change the host venue be rejected, the Ministry of Sport asks those responsible for security to consider different options,” read a Ministry of Culture and Sport statement.
The Israel Basketball Association said that FIBA’s security adviser Boris Kowing is constantly in touch with Turkish officials and that teams playing in Gaziantep receive increased security during their entire stay.
“The IBA understands Ironi Nahariya’s concerns, but it agrees with the Ministry of Culture and Sport that an Israeli team must travel to any game in Europe, when it is clear to everyone that not showing up for a game could have far-reaching ramifications for Israeli basketball and Israeli sport as a whole,” read an IBA statement.