Confusion reigns as Maccabiah softball is canceled

Police storm field during Israel-Mexico game to enforce stoppage order due to lack of business license.

maccabiah promotion 248 (photo credit: )
maccabiah promotion 248
(photo credit: )
The softball tournament at the Maccabiah Games was brought to an abrupt close on Tuesday afternoon when police stormed the field in Petah Tikva without any prior warning. Although the tournament had already been under way for two-and-a-half days, 400 softball players have now been left unsure of the status of their games, seemingly because the Maccabiah coordinators failed to secure a business license for the event's venue, the Yarkon Sports Complex at the city's Baptist Village. On Tuesday morning, just as the second inning of an Israel-Mexico contest was about to begin, members of the Petah Tikva Police suddenly turned up and put an immediate stop to the game, as well as canceling the remainder of the Maccabiah softball schedule until further notice. Evidently, the police were enforcing a stoppage order issued by the Petah Tikva Municipality following a decision late Monday to deny the application for a business license for the Baptist Village. While the tournament organizers were aware that the venue lacked the license, they were under the impression that it was just a matter of formality in processing the application and that the license, or at least a temporary respite to allow the games to go on as scheduled, would be issued. "This is not a case where we did not prepare properly," Maccabiah public relations director Yaron Michaeli told The Jerusalem Post. "Every single venue that we use for the games, including the Yarkon Sports Complex, is put under rigorous inspection and has been tested three times in the past year alone. We brought in professionals to make the softball fields, and the whole site, safe for competition, and we have no clue why a license was not granted," he said. "We were told by the powers that be that getting this license would simply be a procedural hoop to jump through, and now it seems as if someone has deliberately tried to sabotage our efforts," Michaeli continued. "I don't understand why the police had to stop today's games. It seemed to be a little excessive." Ami Baran, executive director of the Israel Softball Association - and manager of the Israeli men's Maccabiah squad - said the situation could turn into a real debacle if the entire softball event is scrapped, especially with 10 teams from abroad having traveled to Israel specifically for the tournament, and the average foreign player paying in excess of $5,000 to participate. "The real shame is that we've had four years to prepare for this, and it could all be ruined by a bunch of bureaucratic nonsense. It is doubly strange because the Baptist Village has hosted two previous Maccabiahs, plus [it] was one of the main venues for the Israel Baseball League in 2007 - all without requiring any sort of business license," he said. "I really hope this can get fixed before it is too late." Multiple attempts by the Post to contact both the Petah Tikva Municipality and a police spokesman for comment were unsuccessful. Herby Geer, a representative of the Baptist Village community, was visibly shaken by Tuesday's commotion. "We want to work with the community and just host a softball tournament. We comply with the law," Geer said. "We will try to work everything out. We never had a problem before, and it's unfortunate it had to come to this." Either way, the Maccabiah is now left scrambling for options to prevent having to cancel the softball events entirely, a scenario that would leave a black mark on the entire Games. The organizers are still holding out hope for an unlikely granting of a temporary business license on Wednesday. As an alternative, they are frantically looking for last-minute substitute venues anywhere around the country to resume action as quickly as possible.