Israeli soccer team captain displays shoe of kidnapped child ahead of qualifying match in Hungary

FELCSUT, Hungary (AP) — The captain of Israel's soccer team on Tuesday displayed the shoe of a young boy he said was kidnapped by Hamas militants during their deadly Oct. 7 raid, an act of solidarity with Israelis held captive in Gaza ahead of the team's game in Hungary.

Team captain Eli Dasa was addressing a news conference in Felcsut, the small Hungarian village where Israel's team is set to face Switzerland on Wednesday in a Euro 2024 qualifying match, when he raised the small athletic shoe and displayed it to reporters.

“It is hard to speak at the moment, but I don’t think that any of you can guess what is the story behind this shoe," Dasa said. “This kid is in Gaza Strip at the moment with seven, seven people from his family.”

“That’s all what’s left from his house. This left shoe. We wait for him here,” he continued, before standing up and leaving the news conference.

The shoe was taken from Be’eri kibbutz, the small community in Israel from which 8-year-old Nave Shoham was kidnapped along with seven of his relatives on Oct. 7, according to the Israeli team's press officer, Eitan Dotan. Three members of the boy's family were killed during the raids, Dotan said.

The news conference took place as Israel's team held training sessions on Tuesday in Pancho Arena, the 3,500-seat stadium where they will face Switzerland on Wednesday and Romania on Saturday.

In the stadium, a banner lining the field read in both Hebrew and English: “Bring them home!”

The team is chasing a qualifying place in the Euro 2024 continental championship, which would be its first since joining the European soccer confederation UEFA in 1994.

The match against Switzerland had been set for Oct. 12 in Tel Aviv, but UEFA suspended all games in Israel due to security concerns. The match against Romania had been set for Tel Aviv on Nov. 18.

On Tuesday, the Israeli team's head coach, Alon Hazan, said he expects a tough and emotional game against Switzerland, saying that “we represent our country, not only the national team."

Hazan commented on statements from Hungarian Jewish organizations that they would attend the matches in Felcsut, saying, “In this part of our life, wherever we play, even if one Jew sits on the stand to support us, we feel at home."

Israel’s chances of reaching the European Championship finals suffered a blow on Sunday after their 1-0 loss to Kosovo in their delayed qualifying game.

Israel are third in Group I of Euro 2024 qualifying, five points behind group leaders Romania - who have played one more game - and four points behind second-placed Switzerland.

The top two teams of the group qualify directly for the 2024 European Championship in Germany.