Euro hoops: 'A dark day for Israeli sport'

ULEB hands Bnei Hasharon technical loss for refusing to play after Turkish terror.

bnei hasharon flee 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
bnei hasharon flee 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
The chairman of the Israeli basketball league has strongly condemned Sunday's decision by ULEB to hand Bnei Hasharon a technical loss for refusing to play a Eurocup game in Turkey last week after being faced with a violently anti-Israel crowd. Despite having to suffer a terrifying experience in Ankara last week, Bnei Hasharon was also fined 50,000 euros by the Union of European Leagues of Basketball. Bnei Hasharon was forced to race into its dressing room moments before the start of its game against Telekom Turk last Tuesday, when thousands of hostile fans stormed the court. The Israelis were stranded in the locker room for two hours before a massive police force cleared the arena and smuggled the team back to its hotel. The referee demanded that Bnei Hasharon play the game after the arena was emptied of supporters, but the traumatized Israelis had no intention of playing basketball, and as a result ULEB decided to punish the team with a 20-0 technical loss and a fine. "This is a dark day for Israeli sport. A day in which terror beat sport in an outrageous and miserable decision," Basketball Super League chairman Avner Kopel said. "The BSL will discuss the decision with Bnei Hasharon and respond accordingly." Ankara didn't get away with its failure to ensure the players safety. It will play one home game in front of empty stands and will also have to pay a 15,000 euro fine. "The judge sanctioned Turk Telecom of Turkey with one home game to be played behind closed doors without fans and a 15,000 fine for not taking "all necessary preventive measures to avoid disturbances before, during and after the game," a ULEB announcement read. He sanctioned Bnei Hasharon of Israel with a 20-0 defeat in the un-played game and a fine of 50,000 euros for refusing to participate once referees had deemed the playing arena safe. The judge's ruling may be appealed by either or both teams within a period of 10 days from its issuance." ULEB's ruling means Bnei Hasharon no longer has any chance to progress in the competition. The Ra'anana-based team hosts Aris Thessaloniki in its final group game on Tuesday. Earlier in the day, Euroleague CEO Jordi Bertomeu wrote to Science, Culture and Sports Minister Ghaleb Majadle, who had appealed to ULEB not to punish Bnei Hasharon. "We were disappointed with Bnei Hasharon's behavior," Bertomeu's letter read. "I agree with you that it is sad that sport is affected by politics, but we in the Euroleague try to make every effort to distance ourselves from such situations." Bnei Hasharon was still clearly shaken from last week's experience on Sunday, losing 92-90 to Maccabi Rishon Lezion in Ra'anana. Rishon, under the guidance of new coach Ofer Berkowitz, raced to a 29-14 lead after 10 minutes and despite a 7-0 Bnei Hasharon run to end the first half, still led 53-40 at the break. The hosts closed to within eight points (72-64) with 10 minutes to play and continued to eat away at the lead in the fourth quarter. Cookie Belcher brought the team to within a single point (90-89) and Erez Katz had a chance to tie the score at the buzzer. However, the Israeli guard's shot was short and Rishon held on for its second win of the season. Larry O'bannon led Rishon scoring 25 points, with Oded Sha'ashoa contributing 20 points and James Hughes adding 15 points and 11 rebounds. The hosts got 28 points from Belcher and 24 points from Ugonna Onyekwe.