Maccabi SA News

Maccabi SA Futsal bringing their A-Game to EMG 2019

4 July 2019

#TeamMaccabiSA is taking a delegation of 90 athletes and officials to the 15th European Maccabi Games, taking place in Budapest from 30 July – 6 August 2019. SA will be competing in futsal, half-marathon, swimming, table tennis and tennis.

SA’s biggest representation will be on the futsal court, with four teams taking part (Junior u16, Youth u18, Open and Masters). The word futsal is derived from Spanish ‘futbol sala’ meaning indoor soccer. It is a fast-paced five-a-side game that originated in South America in the 1930’s, where crowded cities and a shortage of pitches forced the football mad population to adapt the sport.

Maccabi SA first sent a futsal team to the 2011 Pan American Maccabi Games in São Paulo and have made significant progress since then. This 2019 SA squad brings valuable experience to the Games, with many of the players having participated in futsal and/or football at the 2003 and 2011 Pan American Games, the 2009, 2013 and 2017 Maccabiah in Israel, and EMG 2015 in Berlin.

Maccabi SA’s Futsal Convenor Ronen Cohen is a highly experienced Maccabian having attended seven Games in various capacities, including player, coach and manager.

“I am very excited for EMG as it will be the first time that we are sending teams in all the age categories to any Games. All our boys have put in a lot of effort into training, and I could not be prouder of them and the amount of commitment & dedication they have shown. At EMG 2015, our Open & Masters teams won bronze and now we are hoping that we can make the final in both those categories and take the gold. I’m also really excited for our u18 Futsal team who won bronze at the 2017 Maccabiah as u16’s, and can now also push on and take the gold. Lastly, our newest team, our u16s are looking really good, they have come such a long way from not knowing what futsal is to where they are now. They are an exciting team and I have high hopes for them to come home with a medal,’’ commented Cohen.

All the squads have put in significant training in preparation for EMG. The u16’s and u18’s have been training twice a week since March 2018 including high intensity interval training (HIIT) and tactical sessions. The Masters and Open squads have been training since January and April 2019 respectively, including HIIT and tactical work.

The Junior and Youth squads feature 18 players from Herzlia High School, three from King David Victory Park (KDVP) and one each from Bishops Diocesan College and Rondebosch Boys High School. There are also five sets of brothers playing in the various teams (Blumberg, Cohen, Grieve-Fitzell, Sulcas and Smith).

The Junior u16 squad is co-captained by Jake Greenberg (Bishops) and Benjamin Sulcas (Herzlia) and coached by Byron Cottle, the SA u20 coach. Their manager Ryan Smith is also playing in the Masters team.

There are six countries contesting the u16 age group, including Great Britain, Hungary, Scotland, Spain and Turkey. The top two placed teams will meet in the final, and the 3rd and 4th placed teams will compete for bronze.

The Youth u18 squad features seven members who, together with Greenberg, were in the SA Junior Futsal team that won the bronze medal at the 2017 Maccabiah. They are very fortunate to once again be coached by SA’s national coach Reon Siyaya, and managed by Ronen Cohen. Two players, Captain Jordan Arelisky and Aaron Isserow, who play in the Cape Town Metropolitan Futsal League, represented South Africa at the AMF Futsal u20 World Cup in Colombia in 2018.

The U18’s mostly attend Herzlia High School, with Sam Mattison and Zane Grieve-Fitzell (together with u16 brother Ben) representing KDVP in Johannesburg.

The Youth category includes Great Britain, Hungary, Italy and Spain. SA is looking to build on their 2017 success by bringing home the gold.

Maccabi South Africa’s inaugural involvement in the European Maccabi Games in 2015 was a great success. The delegation, largely comprising futsal teams, brought home two bronze medals. The Juniors narrowly lost out on qualifying for the semis in a tough 6-5 battle against Spain. 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. Both the Open and Masters teams went on to win bronze, after some epic contests.

The 2019 Open squad, who all hail from Johannesburg, feature highly experienced members, five of whom were in the 2015 team. In addition to futsal, many have also represented Team Maccabi SA at football. Open Manager Gadi Cohen, younger brother of Ronen, has been to six Games and thus brings a vast wealth of knowledge to the squad. The multi-tasking Sholem Lange serves as the team’s captain, coach and physio. Lange, who has also competed in six Games, captained and coached the medal winning 2015 team.

Cohen and Lange, together with teammate Auri Benatar who has been to five Games, were in the Maccabi SA Junior Football team that won a hard fought silver medal at the 2003 Pan American Maccabi Games, featuring very experienced South American sides.

The Open’s have been drawn in Group B with Spain, Belgium, France and Mexico. SA has fortunately avoided both Israel and Lithuania in the first round, who are powerful teams in this age group, as well as Hungary who have home ground advantage. SA has a realistic chance of qualifying in their group and advancing to the semi-finals.

The largely Capetonian Masters squad is a talented futsal unit, with six members who were in the 2015 medal winning team. Captained, coached and managed by Ronen Cohen, the squad features two sets of brothers, Grant and Marc Blumberg, and Darren and Ryan Smith. Darren is the only futsal player coming from Durban.

South Africa has been drawn in Group B against Italy, Germany and France. SA has fortunately avoided home team Hungary, as well as EMG 2015 silver medalists Turkey. However, they will face the 2015 Champions Italy which will be a strong test, as well as new comers France.

Elan Sawitzky, SA’s Head of Delegation, is very pleased with Maccabi SA Futsal’s readiness. “We are impressed with all the hard work and preparation our squads have put in and are confident they will be very competitive at EMG 2019. Very well done to Convenor Ronen Cohen and the various managers and coaches for their significant efforts. It is also heartening to see how loyal so many of our players have been to Maccabi SA over the years, and how many family members are participating and keep coming through the ranks, with the Maccabi spirit thriving across generations’’.

EMG 2019, we are ready! #YallaMaccSA

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