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Israeli striker Zahavi taken off plane ahead of match due to bout with COVID

Soccer star refused entry to Cyprus despite testing negative for coronavirus; authorities reportedly threaten his whole Dutch team with quarantine

Maccabi Tel Aviv soccer player Eran Zahavi seen at the final of the State Cup between Maccabi Tel Aviv and Maccabi Haifa in Teddy Stadium, Jerusalem, on May 24, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Maccabi Tel Aviv soccer player Eran Zahavi seen at the final of the State Cup between Maccabi Tel Aviv and Maccabi Haifa in Teddy Stadium, Jerusalem, on May 24, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

An Israeli soccer star was removed from a plane moments before it took off for Cyprus after authorities said that he and another player could not enter the country due to coronavirus infections earlier this month.

Eran Zahavi had been slated to fly with the Dutch team PSV Eindhoven for a match against AC Omonia on Thursday evening.

At an official press conference Wednesday, PSV coach Roger Schmidt said that moments before the team was set to take off, Zahavi and teammate Jordan Teze were removed from the plane because of their previous coronavirus infections.

Despite the players testing negative for coronavirus before the flight, Cypriot authorities reportedly contacted the UEFA and demanded the players not be allowed to get on the flight, and even threatened the entire team with quarantine in Cyprus.

“If we had allowed Zahavi to fly, everyone would have had to stay in Cyprus for a few days in quarantine. That was not possible for us, so the players stayed home,” Schmidt said.

PSV reportedly is in talks with the UEFA to allow the two players to fly in on Thursday before the match.

Zahavi, the top-rated Israeli international, said he tested positive for the coronavirus on October 17.

“After succeeding in escaping from this since January, now I am also positive for coronavirus,” he wrote in Instagram at the time.

He signed with PSV Eindhoven in September after several years with Guangzhou R&F, where he set a Chinese scoring record.

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