Maccabi SA News

Team Maccabi SA brings home ten medals from EMG 2015

25 November 2015
Maccabi South Africa’s inaugural involvement in EMG 2015 was a resounding success. The SA delegation of 37, which comprised three futsal teams and two swimmers, won ten medals overall including five gold, three silver and two bronze.

The European Maccabi Games (EMG), an offshoot of Israel’s Maccabi Games and Europe’s biggest Jewish sports event, takes place every four years in a European city. The 14th EMG were held for the first time in Germany, from 27 July to 5 August 2015. The choice of Berlin as Host City was very significant as the Opening Ceremony was held in the same park as the 1936 Olympics where Jews were banned from the German delegation. Almost eighty years later over 2500 Jewish athletes proudly sang HaTikvah and displayed their Magen Davids in a place where Nazi flags once flew. Am Yisrael Chai!

In the swimming competition, Maccabi SA’s Chairman Cliff Garrun won Gold in three events: Masters 50m, 100m and 200m Freestyle, as well as two Silver medals for mixed relays. Cliff’s daughter Kim Garrun won two Gold medals (Open 50m Backstroke, 50m Freestyle) and a Silver (100m Freestyle).

“We would like to thank EMG 2015 for inviting us and congratulate them on hosting a well organised event. We are deeply honoured to have been a part of this momentous occasion where we sang both Nkosi Sikilele and HaTikvah with great pride”, commented Garrun.

Futsal is a rapidly growing, fast paced indoor five-a-side football game. Maccabi SA first sent an Open Futsal team to the 2011 Pan American Games in Sao Paulo and then to the 2013 Maccabiah. The Maccabi SA Futsal Programme has since flourished under the leadership of dedicated, volunteer Futsal Convenor Ronen Cohen, who is also a successful Maccabian. Cohen has been active in various futsal roles and participated in EMG as a Masters player, Open Manager and Junior Coach.

Preparations for EMG 2015 began in early 2014 and involved the formation of a Selection Committee which included the SA National Coach Quinton Allies and SA Player Pirer Fazlur, as well as team trials, regular practices and matches, together with video analysis and mental conditioning.

EMG was a steep learning curve for the Junior (U16) Futsal team who took part in their first major event against experienced competition. They narrowly lost out on qualifying for the Semi’s in a tough 6-5 battle against Spain. “I am immensely proud of this team who left SA as boys and will return as men. On the day some of their games could have gone either way, but they never gave up and left everything they had to give on the court”, said Cohen.

Herzlia pupils Aaron Glanz and Zac Cohen were very excited to have participated in EMG: “I had an unbelievable time in Berlin, it was amazing being with so many other Jews and making friends with people from all over the world. Overall it was a great experience and one I will never forget”, said Glanz. “It was the greatest experience I have ever been part of. The vibe was amazing and I wish I could go back”, added Zac.

The Open and Masters teams both won their Group rounds with full points, the first Maccabi SA teams in either football or futsal teams to achieve this. The Open category was the most highly contested event at EMG with 16 teams taking part. After a decisive 5-0 victory against Finland in the Quarters, the Opens lost to the experienced British team in the Semi’s. The Bronze Medal Match was unfortunately cancelled as Israel withdrew due to injuries and SA was awarded Bronze. Open player Ryan Smith commented: “We had a fantastic squad and winning Bronze really showcased the potential we have in South Africa. As for the event, the camaraderie between all of the participants, despite the many different backgrounds and cultures, was testament to the unique bond Jewish people share with each other.’’

After three impressive wins, the Masters team lost their first game of the tournament 4-2 to Turkey in the Semi’s. They went on to capture the Bronze medal beating Denmark for a second time, 3-1. Speaking after the tournament, Cohen said: ‘’After such dominant Group Rounds both Open and Masters teams were admittedly crushed to lose the decisive games, but realistically we gave our absolute best against very experienced teams. We learned a lot and will use this knowledge to grow stronger and better. I would like to thank all involved, including the dedicated parents, who have contributed to our success’’.

Masters’ Vice-Captain Louis Zive summed up their experience: “To play in EMG Berlin 70 years after the Holocaust was a proud moment. The Olympic Park was once notorious for racial intolerance but we transformed it into a place of Jewish unity. To be part of such history and then make some of our own by bringing home a medal was incredible.”

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