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Local leagues scrambling to finish seasons

CM 18/05/2021 1

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While much of Israel is at a standstill due to the constant barrage of rockets and missiles coming out of the Gaza Strip from Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists, the world of blue-and-white sports must go on.

With that, many foreign-born players in both the soccer and basketball leagues have fled the country for the safety of their own homes and to be with their families during this trying time. Many imports called for the cancelation of the basketball season due to the violence, but that was not in the cards after the league made it through the end of last season despite the overwhelming challenges that COVID-19 presented. On top of that, there was no way the league would in essence capitulate to the terrorist organizations.
In Israel, life must go on no matter what.
While the Israel Premier League has had to continue to postpone its soccer matches, the league isn’t totally reliant on foreign players. Each team has no more than half-a-dozen imports  and most squads are large enough with local players to take their spots should some depart the Holy Land.
That was the case with many of the Maccabi Tel Aviv players, including Aleksandr Pesic, Enric Saborit and Andre Geraldes who have all left Israel. Some say they will come back should there be a ceasefire, but even that looks very uncertain should there be a calm in the fighting.
Obviously, the loss of the aforementioned players will hurt the yellow-and-blue when it still has to play league games as it sits points out of first place with three matches to go with Maccabi Haifa in first place.
Maccabi Tel Aviv also has to face the Greens in the State Cup semifinals in a game that has been rescheduled a number of times and is now slated for this Thursday evening.

However, while the soccer league can easily substitute foreigners should more leave due to the depth of the squads, that is not the case with the Israel basketball league, which relies heavily on imports.
Each basketball team has roughly 12 players on its roster and at least a third of those are foreign born, primarily from the United States. In some cases, teams may have more than four foreigners and while they may have 12 players on their roster, the last few slots are players that have rarely played all season or are youngsters from their youth departments.
This could leave some squads very, very thin as we head into the twilight of the league’s season with only a few regular season games remaining along with the playoffs.
Many American-born players posted messages all over social media networks calling on the league to cancel the balance of the season. In fact, some have already departed the country while others are heavily considering doing so.
Hapoel Jerusalem has already lost four foreigners in captain TaShawn Thomas, Stanton Kidd, Ray McCallum and Malcolm Hill, Maccabi Rishon Lezion has waved goodbye to Jeremy Pargo, Darryl Monroe and Jamil Wilson, Hapoel Beersheba’s Eric Griffin flew out as well and Terrell Parks from Bnei Herzliya has also left Israel.
In order to attempt to have a proper end to the season, the league had to work fast to make the necessary adjustments to do its best in light of the constantly changing developments. An easy task it was not.
Firstly, with so many critical players leaving, the relegation playoffs would potentially be an issue as two teams were supposed to go down to the second division. One of those clubs, Ironi Nahariya, has already been officially demoted while Bnei Herzliya and Maccabi Haifa were battling to avoid relegation. As of now the league has decided that only Nahariya would head to the Leumit League and next season there would be 14 teams instead of 13 clubs playing in the top tier. That may still change as there is talk that the teams want to revisit the issue of one or two teams being relegated, but the decision makes sense not to punish a second team at this point.
In order for the teams to play out the season uninterrupted by the air raid sirens going off in the Tel Aviv greater area as well as close to the Gaza Strip, the league has approved playing out the season in Eilat in a bubble with three games being played a day beginning on Thursday. However, there are also discussions that the Red Sea City bubble may move up north or to Jerusalem.
Some teams, including Hapoel Beersheba, have already made their way down south to the oasis in order to get back into the swing of things, while Ness Ziona sent its foreign players up north to get away from the constant rocket barrage. Should there be a ceasefire, the league will then have the games played in the clubs’ home arenas.
To answer the roster needs of some of the teams who lost foreign players that flew back to the United States, teams are allowed to sign new players – either imports or Israelis – in their place up until the playoffs. That allows a club like Jerusalem the chance to help fill its squad with some players from the second division who are not currently playing.
All in all, while the basketball league has its hands full and will continue to have its hands full in a situation that is far from ideal, the administration acted prudently to ensure that the season will end on the court of play as the show must go on.
In related news, the State Comptroller published a report on the reduction of violence in sports which stated that there was a 22% drop in cases between the 2017/18 and 2018/19 seasons. Also, only one case of racism was reported in that last campaign, which represented a huge reduction. Clubs in both soccer and basketball along with the police have been able to make a significant dent in past year incidents and hope to continue in doing so.
The police force responded to the comptroller’s report with a statement:
“The Israel Police considers all types of violence to be serious, including violence in sports, and works to arrest those involved and bring them to justice. We also work all the time to enforce the Prohibition of Violence in Sports Act, which was enacted with the aim of dealing with manifestations of racism, acts of violence and disturbances in the proper order on the courts.
“This activity is carried out with determination and without bias, without any dependence on the identity of a fan, his sporting preference or belonging to this or that fan base. We are sorry that many fans do not maintain a sporting atmosphere on and off the pitches, and the Israel Police is forced to act resolutely against such phenomena.
Thanks to the activity of the police on and off the fields, hundreds of thousands of sports fans in Israel can come and take part in the sporting events safely, securely and knowing that there is someone who guards them and handles any incident of violence and crime without bias and the examples are many and varied.

Source: Jerusalem Post

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The host of Coffee Mouth Scare Crow Show and CEO of 452 Impact, Inc. Here is food for thought. Romans 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." John 3:16 "For God so love ed the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall be saved."

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