Court rules teen girl can’t play cricket at the Maccabiah
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Court rules teen girl can’t play cricket at the Maccabiah

Naomi Eytan, 14, barred from boys’ team in ‘Jewish Olympics,’ despite support from international and local authorities

Cricket player Naomi Eytan (c) in action (courtesy)
Cricket player Naomi Eytan (c) in action (courtesy)

An Israeli court ruled on Sunday that a teenage girl was ineligible to play in Israel’s otherwise all-boys national cricket team in the upcoming Maccabiah Games.

The ruling, from the Tel Aviv District Court, means that Naomi Eytan, 14, will be unable to play cricket, since there is no women’s competition in the Maccabiah.

Eytan has played in the Israeli national under-19 cricket team all season — the only girl in the squad of the top 15 youth players in the country. With the Maccabiah Games set to start in a few days, she had expected to join her teammates as they battle against Jewish cricketers from around the world, she said last week, but was told by organizers that she couldn’t play with the team because it is for males only.

The Maccabiah, considered the Jewish Olympics, brings together tens of thousands of athletes from all over the world to compete in Israel. This year, the event is scheduled to run July 4-18.

Hours before the ruling was issued, Carmel Eytan, mother of Naomi and spokesperson for Na’amat, an Israeli women’s rights organization, spoke of her daughter’s disappointment if she were barred from playing.

“Look how she stands among then [sic] so proud in the new uniform, and how heartbreaking it will be if, as a result of an unfair decision, this place that she earned through blood, sweat and tears will be taken away from her for one reason — just because she is a girl!” she said.

The mother of Naomi Eytan, the cricket player who has been forbidden from participating in the Maccabiah because she is…

Posted by NAAMAT INTERNATIONAL on Sunday, 2 July 2017

Galia Wolloch, president of Na’amat, said in the wake of the court’s ruling that “the sad decision of the court, which is based on bureaucratic arguments, is harmful for women’s sports in Israel in general and in cricket in particular. While attempts are underway throughout the world to break the glass ceiling, the judge’s decision today strengthens it and sets it in concrete.”

The court was presented with a statement from Ed Shuttleworth, European development manager of the International Cricket Council, who supported Eytan’s position.

“If there is no female team it would seem logical to have a meritocratic system where if a player is good enough (irrespective of gender) they can participate,” he wrote.

The Israel Cricket Association has also put itself squarely on Eytan’s side, with director Naor Gudker appealing to Maccabiah officials to show some flexibility.

The attorney for the teen, Gali Etzion, expressed her disappointment that the court didn’t listen to the advice of the ICC.

She said that the court had also partially based its ruling on a misunderstanding of the cricket term “12 man,” which refers to a substitute player in the 11-a-side sport. The term, which is used in both men’s and women’s cricket, was mistakenly interpreted by the court to refer specifically to men.

Etzion added that despite the ruling, the court stated that the issue should be discussed again before the next Maccabiah Games in four years’ time.

Naomi Eytan said, “I’m an athlete and I’ll always be one. No judge’s decision will break me. My way of proving that I am equal to the boys is to continue training and to participate in the future in the European Championship.”

Although it is rare, women have played in men’s cricket teams in semi-professional and even professional leagues, most recently British-born Sarah Taylor, who in 2015 played a match for Northern Districts against Port Adelaide in Australia. Meanwhile, mixed-gender events are gaining popularity and the International Olympic Committee recently decided that the 2020 Games in Tokyo will include relay swimming and running events for teams with members of both sexes.

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