Na’ama Shafir’s sleeves. That has been what the Israel National Women’s Basketball team has been all about up until this point, in their quest to advance in the FIBA Women Eurobasket 2011 Championship. The sleeves of Na’ama Shafir have garnered all the attention. But does anyone know that Israel has been blown out of the water in their first two tournament contests? Yes the sleeves of Na’ama Shafir.
Na''ama Shafir (Photo by: FIBA Europe)
After FIBA had ruled against Shafir wearing a t-shirt underneath her tank top uniform for religious reasons, all the talk was will Shafir play or will she not. Will the team take to the court without one of their teammates or will they hold out in support? Will a solution be found to allow Na’ama to participate in the tournament? Politicians, rabbis, even the ADL all had to throw their hat in the ring to support Shafir. And yes that is all fine and dandy and should have been done regardless. These were all the questions facing the Israel Women’s National basketball team the week prior to the tournament which began in Poland Saturday night. Well the questions to the above were answered. Yes, Shafir did play and yes Shafir did find a solution; an elastic sleeve that covered her arms from the shoulder to midway to the elbow. Except the most important questions not asked by the local and international media, were ones of great importance as well. Is Israel prepared for this tournament? Who are the teams they will be facing? What stars and quality of player can be found on the European stage? Will they have a chance to compete? Is Israel finally going to win a tournament game for the first time in 20 years? The fact of the matter is that this tournament is much more than just about Na’ama Shafir. And unfortunately, we are now finding out the answers to these questions in stark fashion. Shafir, The University of Toledo star was not going to be featured as the main threat for Israel, as she is just entering her senior year and has not had the international experience other Israelis have seen. That task was going to be the veterans, Shay Doron and Liron Cohen. Doron was a superstar at The University of Maryland leading the school to an NCAA National Championship in 2006 over Duke University. Her stellar career at Maryland, however, did not translate into success in the WNBA where she was drafted by the New York Liberty but saw limited action before returning to Europe and now Israel. This past March, Doron led her domestic club, Elitzur Ramle to the EuroCup Championship.
Shay Doron (L) of Israel drives the ball against Ilona Burgrova of the Czech Republic during their Group B match of the Eurobasket Women basketball tournament in Bydgoszcz June 18, 2011. (Reuters)
Liron Cohen has plied her trade across Europe including stops in Italy, Turkey, Slovakia, Poland and Spain, a true international star in her own right. Both are solid players, each starring in their teams first two matches, but as we have seen so far, not good enough to match up with the greats of the Czech Republic and Belarus. The questions that were not asked have all but been answered. The only one left is, will Israel defeat Britain to finally win a game in this European competition after 20 years and advance to the next round? Forget about the sleeves.Let’s all rally behind the Israel National Women’s team before its next match, including all of the politicians, rabbis, the ADL and all other concerned parties who all took up Na’ama Shafir’s cause. Our Nation and our National Team need you NOW! Follow The Sports Rabbi on twitter @thesportsrabbi and check out www.sportsrabbi.com for podcasts, blogs and much more!