WHAT the Australian delegation will lack in quantity at the 14th European Maccabi Games (EMG), it hopes to make up for with quality showings in the two disciplines featuring green-and-gold athletes: futsal and dressage.
The Games, which kick off in Berlin on July 27, embraces more than 2000 athletes from 35 countries competing in 20 different sports.
With 18 nations, the futsal open male event boasts the largest entry pool for a team sport. As well as drawing the biggest crowds, it is, in fact, Australia’s best chance for a medal.
After winning gold in Vienna four years ago, this nation’s futsal squad travels to Germany with a target on its back as the tournament’s firm favourite.
The 11-man squad is made up mainly of the Eastern Suburbs Hakoah men’s team, which was unbeaten during the recent Super League season.
Six of these players currently take the court for the Inner West Magic side that top the F-league ladder, Australia’s national futsal competition, while four of the Berlin team – Jarrod Basger, Jordan Mundell, Robbie Ezekiel and Jonathan Barzel – occupy spots on the extended Futsalroos squad.
“I would say we are very excited to be part of a small group that gets to represent the Australian Jewish community at a Jewish Games in Germany, of all places,” Basger, who will most likely captain the side, said.
“It seems strange for an Australian team going to a European Games to be considered one of the favorites, and for a lot of the squad who are used to going into tours as the underdogs this will be a totally new experience.
“In saying that, playing teams like Israel and Lithuania will be an amazing experience for the whole squad, and makes defending our gold medal an even sweeter proposition.”
NSW’s Ilona Hudson, meanwhile, is the first ever to represent Maccabi Australia’s first ever in the dressage event (equestrian) at an international games.
“I am most excited by the opportunity to compete overseas, because for many riders this is something only dreamed about,” Hudson said.
“As a kid I swam and played other sports for Maccabi, but I never dreamed I would be able to combine my sport with my heritage.”
Since her competition involves riding a borrowed horse after only a 30-minute introduction, Hudson has been busy training under similar circumstances to give her the best chance for gold.
Maccabi Australia executive director Ellana Aarons added: “To send even a small delegation to this most historic event is confirming all that Maccabi stands for: connection and continuity through sport.”
In addition to the athletes, Maccabi Australia board members Barry Smorgon OAM, Tom Goldman and Harry Procel will be in attendance, as well as former Maccabi Australia president Tom Danos.