Israeli teams look to get back to action amidst war

Oct 15, 2023 | Holyland Hoops

Israeli teams are beginning to make plans to get back into the swing of things as best as they can during the war as both Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Tel Aviv basketball teams will be in action beginning on Tuesday.

The Reds will be playing Tuesday night against Reyer Venice in Italy as they look to pick up where they left off in EuroCup action after defeating Cedevita Olimija 100-73 in their continental opener two weeks ago. Danny Franco’s import players had left to Athens earlier last week while the Israelis joined the foreigners in Italy over the weekend as they prepare as best as they can despite the trying circumstances.

Venice features a familiar face in head coach Neven Spahija who led Maccabi Tel Aviv on a pair of occasions over the past two decades. The Croatian bench boss has many ties to the Holy Land and contacted The Sports Rabbi at the onset of the war last Saturday night to share his feelings and emotions during this challenging time. “I’m so sorry about this attack… disaster…Please stay strong and positive. Everything is going to be OK. Big hug for all of you.”

Maccabi Tel Aviv will also return to action as the head to Valencia for a Euroleague date on Wednesday night and then fly to Athens where they will play Panathinaikos on Friday evening in a tough double week. The yellow-and-blue foreign players departed for Cyprus as war broke out and the Israelis will now meet up with the rest of the squad. With a 96-81 win over Partizan Belgrade in the season opener, Maccabi will look to continue the positive momentum in Spain and Greece. In addition, the club’s former general manager Nikola Vujcic who just left his post this summer is volunteering to accompany Maccabi as they restart their European contests.

Meanwhile over the past week, Israel’s first NBA player Omri Casspi along with Maccabi captain John Dibartolomeo, Rafi Menco, Roman Sorkin, Jake Cohen and head coach Oded Katash all made visits to various locations in the country to raise the spirits of the many families that have been displaced due to the war.

“We’re trying to give the children a moment of joy and getting them to smile while we play with them. We are trying to do something and anything that we can will be a help to all of them,” Sorkin said.

Casspi spoke about what he has been doing over the past week to contribute as best as he can, “Over the last few days I have been visiting many hospitals and here we are strengthening the families, but we are the ones who come out strengthened. We see the amazing power of the people of Israel as everyone is together with one goal. It is really heart warming.”

Hapoel Jerusalem and Hapoel Holon are making plans to begin their respective Basketball Champions League campaigns and will be trying to switch their home games with their opponents in order to be able to host fans at a later date. The purples are slated to host Spanish side Rio Breogan next week, while the Reds are supposed to welcome Galatasaray from Turkey on November 1st.

Beni Herzliya, Nes Ziona and Hapoel Galil Elyon are also in the same boat with FIBA Europe Cup action beginning.

Over on the soccer field, Maccabi Tel Aviv and Maccabi Haifa are going to gear up to play in their respective UEFA competitions, Conference League and Europa League next week. The yellow-and-blue are slated to host Zorya Luhansk although management is trying to switch dates and visit the Ukrainian club at their temporary home in Lublin, Poland on the 26th of October. The Greens are heading to Spain to play Villarreal on the same day as both Israel sides will need to get their full teams together after most foreigners opted to go home.

Israeli star goalkeeper Daniel Peretz who plays for Bayern Munich came out with a strong statement that has been shared all over social media platforms, “I know how it is to be an athlete, there is so much pressure and everyone’s eyes are on us. Every second, every minute every hour. Sometimes it’s good because we can influence with few words to millions. I promise you, it’s not about politics, over 1,300 innocent civilians murdered, over 2,700 injured and more than 150 hostages in Gaza including babies and elderly. We’ve seen in the past in history 9/11 and the 2015 terror attack in Paris. We know how much terrorism hurts and how important it is to fight against it.”

“We are still processing everything that is happening. The horror, the kidnaps, the terrorism. The stories we thoughts we would never hear again. I call on all athletes and sport organizations all over the world to stand together. Speak out against terror, make a donation and stay strong. Let’s honor the victims with a moment of silence and unite as we fight against evil.”

Prior to the United States and Germany International friendly in Hartford a moment of silence was held for the Israeli victims of the war with Hamas, while the NFL did the same at Thursday night’s matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos and will continue to do so for the upcoming weekend of games across America.

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