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For soccer fans looking for a faster version, a new sport is emerging in Israel. Jorkyball, a version of soccer that is played two-on-two in a 10-meter by five-meter cage, has been gaining popularity throughout Europe and recently in Israel.
Jorkyball, which is a registered trademark, was brought to Israel by David Lahmi. He heard about the sport being played in France, where he grew up, and felt that it would be a great fit in Israel.
"The sport is short, and straight to the point," he said. "You touch the ball much more than a regular game of soccer, so you enjoy it more."
Lahmi contacted the International Jorkyball Federation, which led to the creation of the Israeli Jorkyball Federation.
In January 2006, the first-ever Israeli Jorkyball club was formed in Netanya. Another club was formed in Ashdod. Based on the current growth of the sport among Israelis aged 12-45, Lahmi hopes that within the next two years more clubs will start throughout Israel.
Jorkyball is a very simple version of soccer. There are two players on a team - one defender and one forward. The defender cannot cross midfield, while the forward can roam all over the court.
Scoring is similar to tennis sets. It takes seven goals to win a set, and three out of five sets to win a match. After scoring a goal, a team gets the ball back. Making use of the walls of the cage is not only allowed, but encouraged.
This past weekend, Israel's national champions travelled to France to compete in the European Jorkyball Championships. The national champion team consists of defender Elron Sharaabi and forward Chiko Gutman. Gutman and Sharaabi grew up playing youth soccer in Israel.
Lahmi hopes Gutman's and Sharaabi's example of moving from soccer to Jorkyball will be a trend.
Israel faced a tough challenge in the European Championships. Their group included France, Italy, Portugal and Hungary. France has won the last three competitions and was heavily favored in these championships. Before the tournament, Lahmi, who traveled with the team to France, remained confident.
"Finals? I'm not sure," he said. "But with a little luck they could pull it off. With a little chutzpa they could reach a very high level. They are very good, just inexperienced."
Despite being tremendous underdogs, the Israeli team managed to pull out a 4th-place finish. The team managed to reach the semifinals before losing to France, which went on to win the tournament.
In the 3rd-place game, Israel took a 6-2 lead in the final set against Italy. The Italians came back, and eventually won the final set 8-6 to take third place.
Despite this, the Israelis were considered the surprise of the tournament, and are expected to be serious competitors next year.