Israel basketball 224.88.
(photo credit: AP)
Ussishkin Arena, former home of Hapoel Tel Aviv basketball club, may stand as an arena of champions once again.
Last Tuesday, representatives of the club appealed to the Tel Aviv city council for permission to reconstruct the stadium from its ruins.
Famous for the crowded and hostile conditions that intimidated many a visiting team, the old facilities lacked air conditioning and had a capacity of less than 1,500.
The arena was loved by generations of Hapoel devotees, who were considered among the most fanatic sports fans in Israel.
As legendary as Ussishkin Arena once was, so too were the athletes who occupied her.
Hapoel Tel Aviv was once the mightiest of Israeli basketball teams. Dominating the fledging sport, the team claimed banners throughout the 1960s. Hapoel managed to recruit one of the most talented players in national history, Barry Leibowitz, from the New Jersey Nets, who later led Israel to the silver medal in Eurobasket 1979. They are considered second in the country in terms of trophies won and loyal fans.
Recently, Hapoel Tel Aviv has struggled. In 1995, the Histadrut withdrew financial support from the string of sports clubs it fathered.
Hapoel Tel Aviv became a private entity, passing through the hands of several wealthy businessmen. Almost immediately, the club's status and stability deteriorated.
Hapoel suffered multiple relegations to lower leagues, humiliating losses to their local rival Maccabi Tel Aviv, and the demolition of their historic stadium.
Most recently, the club was purchased by Shaul Eizenberg, a former press officer of the Israeli Football Association, who authorized the bulldozing of Ussishkin Arena.
This decision resulted in a mass boycott by fans. A small group of supporters formed their own non-profit basketball team, Hapoel Usishkin.
The past few years have diminished the gleam in Hapoel's reputation, but dedicated fans have pledged cooperation in rebuilding their former glory. They hope to proudly cheer their team to victory, in a stadium that feels like home.
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