Hapoel Jerusalem will look to finish off their first round of Basketball Champions League games at 3-0 when they visit PAOK on Wednesday (19:30 Israel time) in Greece. The Reds have been on a roll since the start of their continental campaign which they hope to continue. In addition, Hapoel will be hosting a special event the Jerusalem Arena for up to 1,000 fans where the club will honor the families of those who were kidnapped on October 7th and are being held hostage by Hamas in Gaza. There will be 6,000 posters of the hostages on the seats in the lower bowl of the Arena as well. Following the ceremony which begins at 6:45pm, the club will show the game on the jumbotron as Hapoel Jerusalem will be the first Israeli team to host a “sporting event” since the beginning of the war as normal life begins to return.
“Our next opponent is a team that will punish us if we underestimate them,” Head Coach Aleksandar Dzikic began. “They strengthened their roster with a pair of players recently, one who is a center and a scoring guard and they are better than the team that played in the previous games in the BCL. We are expecting big support from their fans as we know what the PAOK fans and basketball are in European basketball. We will try to establish the rhythm of the game that we want and we will try to play our game like we did against Galatasaray and Benfica.”
Oz Blayzer also spoke about the game as well as the event that will be held earlier in the Arena. “We’re coming into a very important game in Europe and we want to end this round 3-0. We’ve done our preparations and I feel that we are ready. We will need to play our tough defense and on offense to play our game and get to the spots that we want to. We want to continue to give our fans some joy.
“We are receiving many videos and pictures from soldiers and families and we want to continue to make them happy as we know how much it helps them out during these times. I think what the club is doing by showing the game on the big screen in the Arena and by having a program with the families of the hostages is just great. I hope that other teams will do the same and that slowly but surely we can get back to a normal routine and play back at the Arena as well.”
Hapoel Holon is also in action of Wednesday (21:30) when they play Rio Breogan in a home game that will take place in Latvia. The Purples will be playing their second game in the Basketball Champions League after having won their first contest a couple of weeks ago.
Ahead of the game, Head Coach Amir Sherf spoke about the team and what they are expecting as they look to add another W in the win column.
“After another week of practice in Cyprus we are now heading to Latvia to host our first home game. I want to thank the Latvian basketball Federation and VEF Riga for hosting us at the highest of levels. We are going to face a Spanish squad that is very deep and one that is built on 5 Spanish guards along with 7 foreign forwards and centers. They are coming into this game after a win over Badalona which helped them after a difficult run.”
“We will need to be focused in order to deal with their size and their advantages over us. We are very motivated to continue to represent the country and play for the city of Holon. Our hearts are with the nation of Israel, its citizens and of course the soldiers. We really miss our staff who are both in the IDF reserves, Osher Michaeli and Ido Levitt.”
Netanel Artzi spoke about representing the country, “It’s not easy being away from home and we have to deal with flights in order to host a game of basketball which is not easy. But at the end of the day we are doing what we love and we are representing the country. We feel as if we are ambassadors and we hope that we can strengthen the people back home. We feel that we are doing a tremendous amount for the State in terms of public relations and to show that we are a strong nation and we are proud to be an Israeli team playing in Europe.