The National Sport of Israel is Soccer.
Soccer in Israel brings passion and excitement, connecting people from diverse backgrounds through the love of the game.
To learn more about sports culture in Israel, read our article about the most popular sports in Israel.
Table of Contents
#1 History of Soccer
- 1928: Formation of the Israel Football Association (IFA), initially as a part of the British Mandate of Palestine.
- 1948: Israel gains independence, and the IFA joins FIFA the same year.
- 1954: Israel becomes a member of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).
- 1956: Establishment of the Israeli Premier League, the country’s top soccer division.
- 1970: Israel qualifies for its first FIFA World Cup held in Mexico, the only time it has participated in the tournament to date.
- 1994: Israel moves to the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) for national team competitions, eventually joining fully in 1994.
- 2016: Hapoel Be’er Sheva wins their first Israeli Premier League title, breaking a nearly 40-year Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Tel Aviv dominance.
#2 Culture and Traditions
Soccer in Israel serves as a unifying force, drawing people from various cultural and religious backgrounds together under a shared passion. The sport is a regular topic of conversation and source of camaraderie among fans, transcending political and social divides.
Derby matches, such as those between Tel Aviv rivals Maccabi and Hapoel, are eagerly anticipated events that showcase the excitement and dedication of Israeli soccer fans. Meanwhile, the Israeli State Cup and Toto Cup tournaments draw significant attention, as clubs from all divisions compete for these prestigious titles.
International competitions, such as the World Cup and European Championships, see Israeli fans enthusiastically supporting their favorite teams, often gathering in public spaces to watch matches together. Soccer has become an integral aspect of Israel’s social fabric and continues to foster connections between its diverse communities.
#3 How it Works: Rules, Gameplay and Equipment
📕 Rules & Gameplay
- Match Duration: A standard match consists of two halves, each lasting 45 minutes, with a 15-minute break in between.
- Objective: Each team aims to score by getting the ball into the opposing team’s goal.
- Players: Each team has 11 players, including one goalkeeper.
- Offside: A player is offside if they are nearer to the opponent’s goal than both the ball and the second last opponent when the ball is played to them.
- Fouls: Direct and indirect free-kicks and penalty kicks are awarded for infringements of the rules.
⚙️ Equipment & Gear
- Ball: Round and made of leather or another suitable material.
- Goalposts: Located at each end of the field, they are 7.32 meters wide and 2.44 meters tall.
- Kits: Teams wear distinguishing kits, with goalkeepers wearing different colors to stand out.
- Shin Guards: Protection for players from potential tackles or hits.
- Boots: Specialized shoes designed for the sport’s requirements.
#4 Modern Development of Soccer
As soccer continues to grow in Israel, the sport has evolved, adapting its tactics, techniques, and training methods in line with global trends. The Israeli Premier League and other divisions have become more widely regarded and closely followed within the region and beyond.
Technological developments, such as VAR and goal-line technology, have caught on in Israeli soccer, ensuring fair play and integrity in the game. These advancements have helped the sport maintain its status as the country’s most popular pastime.
In recent decades, Israeli clubs have increasingly competed and made an impact on the European stage, participating in UEFA Champions League and Europa League competitions. Meanwhile, the national team strives for success in UEFA Euro and World Cup qualifiers, aiming to enhance Israel’s profile on the global soccer stage.
#5 Soccer and the Olympics
Soccer has been a staple event at the Olympic Games since their inception, with the men’s tournament first held in 1900 and the women’s event introduced in 1996. Although Israel has not made a significant impact in soccer at the Olympics, the country has sent their teams to compete in the past, promoting the sport domestically.
Participation in the Olympic Games has given soccer increased global exposure and recognition, further solidifying its status as the world’s most popular sport. Both the men’s and women’s competitions showcase young talent, providing them with a platform to perform at an international level and attract attention from top clubs around the world.
#6 Famous Athletes and Achievements
- Yossi Benayoun: Renowned attacking midfielder who has played for top European clubs, including Liverpool, Chelsea, and West Ham United, while also captaining the Israeli national team.
- Eran Zahavi: Highly skilled forward and prolific goal scorer, currently playing for PSV Eindhoven and the national team. He holds the record for most goals in the Israeli Premier League in a single season.
- Shmuel Rosenthal: Considered a trailblazer for Israeli soccer players abroad, he became the first Israeli to play in the German Bundesliga, joining Borussia Mönchengladbach in the 1970s and winning two league titles with the club.
- Avi Nimni: A legendary Maccabi Tel Aviv player who had a successful career in Israel and Europe, with a stint at Premier League side Derby County. Widely regarded as one of the best Israeli soccer players in history.
#7 Where to watch Soccer
- Sport 5, ONE, and Channel 13: Local Israeli broadcasters offering coverage of domestic league matches, international competitions, and national team games.
- UEFA streaming platforms: For European club competitions like the UEFA Champions League and Europa League, featuring Israeli clubs.
- Live in Israel: Experience the electrifying atmosphere at iconic stadiums such as Teddy Stadium (Jerusalem), Bloomfield Stadium (Tel Aviv), and Sammy Ofer Stadium (Haifa).