ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 141

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Irish basketball team refuses to shake hands with Israelis, proceeds to lose by 30

Basketball Ireland backed national women’s team forgoing pleasantries after Israeli player called them antisemitic; Israel captain: It was a lot more than a win, it became personal

Members of the Ireland women's basketball team pictured before they faced Israel in EuroBasket qualifying, February 8, 2024 (X screengrab, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the copyright law)
Members of the Ireland women's basketball team pictured before they faced Israel in EuroBasket qualifying, February 8, 2024 (X screengrab, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the copyright law)

RIGA, Latvia — The Ireland women’s team shunned normal pre-match courtesies when it faced Israel in EuroBasket qualifying on Thursday after it said it was outraged by accusations of antisemitism by an Israeli player.

The accusations, by Israeli player Dor Saar on the Israeli Basketball Association’s official channels, prompted Basketball Ireland to file a report to governing body FIBA Europe.

Forfeiting the match was rejected because Ireland would have faced sanctions.

Instead, there were no handshakes or other pleasantries before the qualifier in Riga, Latvia, an alternative venue because of the war in Gaza.

Israel won 87-57. The teams are in a group with France and Latvia. Ireland is scheduled to host Israel on November 10.

Members of the Israeli National Women’s Basketball Team celebrate after defeating Ireland in Riga, Latvia, Feb. 8, 2024. (X screengrab, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the copyright law)

“I’ve been in sports for a long time, I’ve never seen something like this my whole life,” Israeli coach Sharon Drucker said on the Israeli Basketball Association’s website after the game.

“There was never a game where you don’t give a gift, shake hands, wish well to each other. [The Irish] totally took a side, and they received their punishment today. Sports need to bring people together and bridge gaps. They took a side without even thinking about what they were doing,” Drucker said.

“Basketball Ireland informed FIBA Europe yesterday that as a direct result of recent comments made by Israeli players and coaching staff — including inflammatory and wholly inaccurate accusations of antisemitism, published on official Israeli federation channels — that our players will not be partaking in traditional pre-match arrangements with our upcoming opponents,” a Basketball Ireland statement read on Thursday.

“This includes exchanging of gifts, formal handshakes before or after the game, while our players will line up for the national anthem by our bench, rather than center court. Basketball Ireland fully supports our players in their decision.”

While Ireland defied pressure to boycott the match — the federation said it was not feasible — several players opted not to travel to Riga.

“It’s known that they are quite antisemitic and it’s no secret, and maybe that’s why a strong game is expected,” Saar, a United States-based student, had said in an interview before the match published by the Israeli Basketball Association.

“We have to show that we’re better than them and win. We talk about it among ourselves. We know they don’t love us and we will leave everything on the field always and in this game especially.”

“It was a lot more than a win, it became personal,” Eden Rotberg, the Israeli captain, said afterward. “Everyone took it to a personal place and I’m very glad we won, it brings pride to the country. Sports need to be kept outside of politics and that’s not what happened today or lately with the Irish. It was very difficult for me to watch them during the national anthem being disrespectful.”

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