No wheelchair basketball has been played at a competitive league level in Israel since March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It has been a challenging year faced by the Israeli wheelchair basketball community with restrictions impacting matches and limiting training. However, last weekend marked a significant step forward as the game was back on court again.
The Israeli Association of Disabled Sports were able to host the 2020 Cup Final, in-line with COVID-19 protocol and procedures, between ILAN Ramat Gan and the Beit Halochem Tel Aviv.
Captain of ILAN Ramat Gan, Asael Shabo, said
“The league in Israel stopped in the middle of March this year, and only the Cup Final has been possible to do this year. It was not the Cup Final as usual – in the last 8 years it used to be in a big hall with over 1500 people. This year we had to do it with no crowd and only players and staff.”
Despite no crowd, fans of the game could follow live on TV, and allowed a wider sports audience to watch the enthralling action with Ilan Ramat Gan taking victory, 78-66.
The hosting of the Cup Final also showed some positive signs for the sport and its fight to get back on the court. This was symbolised at the end of the game, when the Minister of Culture and Sports, Chili Tropper, awarded the State Cup to Shabo, who in turn invited the captain from the opposing team, Peleg Zaltsman, to lift the trophy with him.
Shabo was not only delighted to be back playing, but was excited to have regained the cup. He added
“To me it was a great moment to win the cup because my club ILAN Ramat Gan haven’t won it since I left to play in Germany and now it’s time to bring it back to the club, and especially for me as captain of the team. It was a big honour to play with the new players and the next generation of Israel and to lead them to a victory.”
Looking ahead, Shabo said:
“I really hope we get to play EuroLeague and take the team to a higher spot. Hopefully we will be able finish the league, which is due to start soon, and win the championship and a cup by the end of April!”
Images courtesy of Israeli Association of Disabled Sports/Israel Paralympic Committee – Photographer: Nimrod Glickman