Maccabi Tel Aviv coach quits for safety reasons

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TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Maccabi Tel Aviv coach Oscar Garcia has quit his job, with the club saying Tuesday it was because of the “current security situation” in Israel.

The club said Garcia, a former Barcelona midfielder from Spain, will be replaced by Pako Ayestaran, another Spaniard. Ayestaran was previously an assistant coach at Liverpool and Valencia under Rafa Benitez.

Garcia is a former Barcelona youth team coach who began his second stint at Maccabi Tel Aviv in June. He previously coached Maccabi during in the 2012-13 season, leading the team to the 2013 league title before leaving to manage English club Brighton.

Garcia’s resignation came two days before the second leg of Maccabi’s Europa League playoff against Greek club Asteras Tripolis, scheduled to be played in Cyprus.

Israel is in the eighth week of a military campaign in the Gaza Strip. It has been accompanied by the firing of hundreds of rockets by Islamic militants at Israel, including some at Tel Aviv.

“You cannot do as if there is nothing happening,” said Maccabi general manager Jordi Cruyff, himself a former Barcelona midfielder and the son of Netherlands great Johan Cruyff. “Games are being canceled, the national team has to play abroad, all Israeli teams have had to play outside Israel.”

Israeli sports have been significantly affected by the Gaza war.

The local soccer season, due to kick off last weekend, was postponed, and the upcoming European Championship qualifier against Belgium, which was scheduled to be played in Jerusalem on Sept. 9, will either be played in another country or postponed.

Also, Israel’s Davis Cup playoff against Argentina, due to be played in Ramat Hasharon on Sept. 12-14, has been moved to Sunrise, Florida.

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