September is essentially here and school may be around the corner for the children of Israel, but so is the sports scene across the country and beyond.
The Israel Premier League is back in action while both the soccer and basketball national teams are also at the forefront. Add to that the return of the Champions League, Europa League and Israeli basketball training camps and there’s plenty of fun to go hand-in-hand with the return to the classrooms.
Israel begins preparations for the brand-new soccer competition UEFA Nations League, which gets under way on September 7 when the blue-and-white visits Albania. Under the direction of Austrian head coach Andreas Herzog, Israel will look to turn a new page in its national team program.
In addition the blue-and-white also welcome back star Eran Zahavi, who had been missing in action since tossing the captain’s armband to the ground in a match against Macedonia last year.
Israel will also play a friendly in Northern Ireland the following week as Herzog will begin to see what tools he has to work with before facing Albania again at home and Scotland the following month again in Nations League action.
Getting back to the Israel Premier League, Maccabi Tel Aviv began its season on the right foot by defeating Maccabi Haifa while Hapoel Beersheba drew 1-1 up north at Ironi Kiryat Shmona.
The top two teams will face each other on Matchday 2 at Turner Stadium in Beersheba on Sunday night, a duel which will certainly be a barn-burner, especially since it’s so early in the season.
The yellow-and-blue defeated Beersheba in the Championship Playoffs last campaign down south, becoming the first team to beat Barak Bachar’s club at home since the opening of the facility a couple of years ago, and will look to duplicate the feat.
Beitar Jerusalem will host its home opener against Hapoel Hadera as new owner Moshe Hogeg will look to pick up a first win after falling at Maccabi Petah Tikva on Matchday 1.
Hapoel Tel Aviv welcomes Hapoel Haifa in its opening home match after being promoted following a season in the second tier Later this month, Maccabi Tel Aviv will play Hapoel Tel Aviv in the first league Derby of the campaign. In fact, the two clubs have already played each other when Maccabi took apart Hapoel 4-1 in the Toto Cup semifinal a couple of weeks ago.
Meanwhile, Israel’s national Basketball team began training camp this week for its upcoming World Cup qualifiers at home against Georgia on September 13 and on the road in Germany the following week.
Head coach Oded Katash will look to continue his side’s positive momentum as Under-20 EuroBasket Champion, and MVP Yovel Zoosman will be called upon to inject new life into the team together with Tamir Blatt and Egor Koulechov who returns to Israel after a spell in the NCAA College circuit.
Naturalized citizen John Dibartolomeo will make his first appearance for the blue-and-white hoops squad as the Maccabi Tel Aviv captain will provide a backcourt presence and leadership, with Gal Mekel yet to sign with a new team.
All of the Israel Basketball Super League teams have begun training camp as many of the foreign players have arrived from primarily the United States. Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Jerusalem will take part in preseason tournaments abroad and will face top-level competition in teams like Panathinaikos, Olympiacos and Fenerbahce in order to prepare for their new campaigns.
Hapoel Holon, Hapoel Tel Aviv and Maccabi Ashdod will all look to compete against the top teams, while others will try to surprise and turn a few heads around the league just as Ness Ziona did last year.
Finally, the UEFA Champions League and Europa League will begin their new seasons midway through the month. Although there aren’t any Israeli teams in the Champions League, many children and adults alike will be glued to their TVs on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays in order to watch the best of the best kick off against each other.
From Real Madrid to Liverpool, Barcelona, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Paris Saint Germain and Manchester City there’s no better fun than seeing the greats in Leo Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar across the continent after the great World Cup tournament that everyone around the globe experienced from Russia this past summer.
Make sure to get out to a game in Israel, whether it’s a national team competition or a domestic league contest. There’s plenty of live sporting events for the young and the young at heart. Take an evening out and enjoy the best Israel has to offer.
Joshua Halickman, the Sports Rabbi, covers Israeli sports and organizes Israel Sports Adventures for tourists and residents. Follow the Sports Rabbi on Twitter @thesportsrabbi or visit www.sportsrabbi.com. Contact the Sports Rabbi via email at firstname.lastname@example.org