The First Time Israeli Sports Went Global
Updated: May 2
Sports teams around the world vie for the top spot as internationally recognized champions and even before it was a State, Israel was no different.
The first basketball team, Maccabi Tel Aviv, was established in the 1930s and they got their big break into the world of international sports when they defeated Soviet Union CSKA Moscow basketball on February 17, 1977. They won the final of the European Champions Cup with a game score of 91 - 79 and won the cup that year.
This was a big deal on many levels.
Besides the fact that the Soviet team flounced their supremacy as sports champions, 1977 was the height of the Cold War and the Soviet Union had boycotted Israel and were supplying weapons to the Arab countries that were fighting Israel. Because they were politically estranged, CSKA Moscow refused to play in Tel Aviv and the Soviet Union refused to grant visas to Israelis. Maccabi Tel Aviv played their momentous, “home game” victory in Virton, Belgium.
This was a huge victory for the tiny country of 4 million people, against 290 million Soviets. It was broadcast in the news as “the fight between David and Goliath”.
American-born top Israeli player at the time, Tal Brody, famously exclaimed, “We are on the map! And we are staying on the map - not only in sports but in everything!”
“We are on the map!” or “Anachnu al hamapa!” quickly became an inspirational slogan in Israel.
This game lifted the national spirits and gave real hope for change in a country that had already seen so much loss and war since its inception less than 30 years earlier!