(The successful Arab Israeli soccer team celebrating a victory)
Soccer in European countries is similar to baseball in the United States. Everyone no matter what the age plays at both competitive and noncompetitive levels. Soccer is a very big part of the European culture, a main reason why the World Cup is the most watched sporting event in the world. In recent years soccer in Israel has begun to integrate itself into the growing sports culture. In the 1970's Israel qualified for the World Cup for the first time. This is a very impressive accomplishment because teams from all over the country participate and only 16 teams make it. In addition Israel has been competing in major European competition since 1993 with many shocking victories. They have really begun to make a name for themselves amongst dominant European teams.
Israel has begun to show great promise in the youth age groups, specifically the Under 16 and Under 18. In order to develop competitive players it is essential to start at a young age. The fact that these two teams have had some astounding accomplishments foreshadows the future of Israeli soccer. Israel hosted the Under 16 European soccer championships in the year 2000. This was a great honor and helped engage even more fans to the sport.
In recent years Israel has developed a woman's soccer team. They have also seen great success in their short lived time. Israel's leading player, Sylvie Jian, is one of the leading scorers in the Norwegian women's league, the most prestigious league in women's soccer.
Israeli Arab's also participate in the soccer sporting world. They are a main ingredient to the success of Israeli soccer. The fact that two groups of individuals with a history of animosity can compete together shows a lot about the country. The culture of soccer and sports in Israel has brough them together and promotes a new level of peace that has never been seen.
(A player for Maccabi Tel Aviv)
Soccer and Basketball are Israel's two most popular sports. The most dominant sports team in Israel is Maccabi Tel Aviv. This team has won the European Cup club in 1977 and 1981. They are a very competitive team that draws a very large crowd of Israeli fans. Two members of Maccabi Tel Aviv teams have been drafted by the NBA, the most elusive league in the world. A native Israeli, Nadav Henefeld, came to the United States to play for the University of Connecticut. This is one of the best teams in College Basketball. The fact that such a small nation has made such an impact on sports in the world is amazing.
Recently, as in soccer, a women's league was created. It has been said that this league attracts several thousand spectators. This speaks loudly as to the effects of sports on the culture of Israel. It engages the entire community. It doesn't matter what age or competitive level, every one enjoys sports. It has brought the people of Israel closer together, giving them all common grounds to relate to. The culture of sports in Israel depicts a peaceful, yet competitive, enjoyable atmosphere. Having something like this in times of war will benefit the country as a whole for year's to come.