Sinai Says: The lack of support for deaf athletes embarrassment for Israel

If a society is judged by how it takes care of its weakest members then Israel would receive an F.

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April 2, 2008 00:44
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On June 20 the 9th European Deaf Basketball Championships will get underway in Bamberg, Germany. Israel's national team is scheduled to take part in the event, but as things currently stand the players and coaches will instead be staying at home. A lack of budgeting has forced the deaf team to beg for the money that its country couldn't provide, despite the fact that the side's main goal is to represent that very country. "We need another NIS 100,000," admitted Robi Belinko, who as well as coaching BSL side Ironi Ramat Gan, has also been voluntarily coaching the deaf team for the last 18 months. "The budgeting from the country for deaf sport is minimal and is nowhere near what is needed. The state gives deaf sport approximately NIS 200,000 a year, which is barely enough for anything." To put things into perspective, consider this: Israel's soccer players have reportedly each been guaranteed $50,000 should the team qualify for the 2010 World Cup. In other words, the bonus the Israel Football Association, which is budgeted by the country, plans to give to a single player is almost as much as deaf sport receives throughout a year. "We would like to see a change in the criteria for budgeting. The deaf national team gets the same amount as a fifth division basketball club. I think the deaf team should get more money from the state. They may be deaf, but they're still playing for a national team," Belinko said. At last summer's World Championships in China, which the deaf team finished in sixth position, each player had to fork out more than NIS 2,000 of his own money to play in the event. For June's European Championships every player is expected to spend NIS 1,500, but even so the team is still well short of the amount needed. "Why does a deaf player have to pay to represent his country? Why is a deaf player representing his country any different than a non-deaf player representing Israel?" Belinko asks. The deaf national team played Hapoel Usishkin Tel Aviv last week, aiming to raise some of the money needed to take the team to the Euros. While the deaf team lost 86-80, the game showcased the players' talents and deep motivation and raised some NIS 11,000. The team, however, still has a long way to go to reach its target and is hoping that the Minister of Science, Culture and Sport, Ghaleb Majadle, lives up the promise he made last week in a radio interview that the side will be getting the money it requires to go to Germany. "We heard Majadle promise in an interview that the team would get the money it needs, so we called his office immediately and asked what we need to do to receive it," Belinko said. "They told us to fill out an application, which we did straight away, but we were than told that our request is being processed. The championships are around the corner, we don't have time for processing." It is often said that a society is judged by how it takes care of its weakest members. I think it is safe to say that at the moment an F would be a fair grade. Allon@jpost.com

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