IT was a bittersweet end to the 2015 European Maccabi Games (EMG) for the Australian open men’s futsal team, which romped to the grand final before being ultimately defeated 4-2 by old foes Great Britain in Berlin’s Olympia Park on Tuesday night.
The silver medal, Australia’s first and only medal of the Games, might feel like a consolation prize, with the green-and-gold futsalers in sizzling form during the lead-up to the decider and all signs pointing to a successful defence of its 2011 victory in Vienna.
Group stage wins against Finland (7-1) and Gibraltar (12-1) put the rest of the competition on notice of the young Aussies seeking back-to-back titles.
After beating Estonia 9-3 in the qualifying final to set up tantalising semifinal match-up with Israel, the Maccabi Australia side created history by conquering the Israelis for the first time ever in competition, while also booking a spot in the grand final.
Speaking to The AJN after the triumph over Israel and the night before the gold medal game, team skipper and current Futsalroo Jarrod Basger said a pre-camp in Thailand provided the ideal groundwork for Berlin.
“We’ve had some very good results and I think Thailand prepared us very well for the competition,” Basger, 24, said.
“Bangkok FC were a quality outfit and were a much higher level than the teams here.
“Once we arrived in Berlin we got to do a bit of touring, which was amazing, but we were also doing double training sessions at a local court near the hotel so that’s kept everyone on their toes.”
Along with fellow Futsalroo Jordan Mundell, Basger leads a team predominately made up of players from the Eastern Suburbs Hakoah Futsal Club (ESHFC), which became the NSW Futsal Premier League champions earlier this year.
“I would say we are the youngest team [in the EMG futsal men’s tournament], which is very exciting for the future,” Basger said.
“Everyone has got on the score sheet, including Robbie Ezekiel and Gilad Swartz, who are the two overseas debutants. “My personal highlight on court was scoring the opening goal against Israel and celebrating with the boys.”
In other European Maccabi Games results for Aussies, the equestrian competition saw Ilona Hudson as the first ever Jewish Australian participant at an international dressage event.
Facing the challenge of riding on a borrowed horse, Hudson, who is from NSW, finished a respectable 11th in Final Single Advanced Dressage at Olympia Park Reierstadion on Tuesday.
Maccabi Australia board member Harry Procel OAM also competed, coming equal 15th in the Masters Handicap golf event.