Sir Cliff Richard playing tennis in Nazareth370.
(photo credit: David Katz)
On his first day in Israel, famed British pop singer Cliff Richard didn’t have a
microphone in hand, but a tennis racket.
The 72-year-old avid tennis
player arrived in Israel on Monday – first to perform two concerts at Tel Aviv’s
Nokia Arena on Thursday and Saturday – and then requested to take time out at
the beginning of his trip to visit the Nazareth Tennis School, which houses two
tennis courts that he helped fund.
Yet this particular tennis school is
about much more than just sport, it presents an opportunity to bring young
“When anybody does anything to do with tennis and
young people, what you’re hoping for ultimately is for them to grow up having
tennis as a sport to play,” said Richard during his visit to the school on
Tuesday. “It’s a very social sport, it’s easy to play, you make a lot of
friends, that’s the ultimate goal.”
Richard became involved with the
school in 2004 in an effort to promote coexistence among the city’s Jewish and
The school, located on the grounds of the YMCA, is a Nazareth
landmark that was founded by 76-year-old Nazareth resident Salomon Hamed. He
explained on Tuesday that he started playing tennis at the age of seven and was
taught the game by British officers while working as a ball boy.
he went to the YMCA and asked about land to build tennis courts. He was told the
city actually had two courts, but they were old and dilapidated.
for funds to refurbish the facilities, Hamed was put in touch with
philanthropist Freddy Krivine through former Israeli tennis pro Shahar Perkiss.
Krivine, who was the president of the Israel Tennis Association until his death
in 2005, used his foundation to introduce Israeli Arab children to tennis and
then use the sport to introduce Jewish and Arab children to each
“I went to visit him over 20 times at his home in
I wanted to make sure we would make this project happen,” Hamed
After Krivine passed away, his daughter Jane sent a letter to
Richard asking him if he would like to contribute to the project. To Krivine and
Hamed’s delight, Richard responded that he would love to be involved with the
project, including a check for two new tennis courts to be built.
2005, these courts were opened to the children of Nazareth.
are 140 children that learn tennis on these courts, including seven-year-old
Natalie, who is considered to be one of the top tennis players of her age group
“These courts give me a chance to get better every day, and to
work at the sport I love,” she said with a big smile on her face.
ultimate, ultimate goal however, would be for one of these youngsters to show up
in the first round at Wimbledon,” Richard said to a cheering crowd. “There is no
reason why the next world champion can’t come from Israel.”
the children playing that he had very high hopes for their future.
you make it to the first round at Wimbledon, I will come and cheer for
Even if you are playing an English player I will come and cheer for
you to win, and if you are playing an English player you probably will win!”