In 2011, Nazareth at center of Euro wheelchair basketball

Nineteen European national teams – 12 men’s and seven women’s – will make their way to the Galilee for the tournaments.

Wheelchair Basketball Draw 311 (photo credit: Yaro Bril)
Wheelchair Basketball Draw 311
(photo credit: Yaro Bril)
The countdown to one of the largest athletic events of the year has begun, after the draw for the 2011 European Wheelchair Basketball Championships was held in Nazareth on Thursday.
Nineteen European national teams – 12 men’s and seven women’s – will make their way to the Galilee for the tournaments, which will be held between September 6- 18. The games will take place in Gan Ner and Afula.
“This will be the first time that Israel has hosted a sporting event of this magnitude,” said Danny Ben-Abu, president of the Israel Sports Association for the Disabled.
“And for it to be in the north, with its warmth and its bridges between so many types of people, makes it all the more special.”
In addition to Great Britain’s men’s and women’s teams, five men’s and four women’s teams will advance from the Euros to the 2012 Paralympics in London.
“We need to take advantage of being the hosts,” said men’s coach Arik Pinto. “I believe we can get a Euro medal. And the fact that we’re hosting the games here is proof of our abilities.”
Israel’s men’s team, which won the gold medal at the 1980 Paralympic Games in Arnhem, the Netherlands, and finished sixth at the 2008 Games in Beijing, will face Italy, Great Britain, Turkey, Belgium and Switzerland in Group B. Group A will consist of France, Poland, Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain.
In the women’s competition – which consists of seven teams after Italy backed out – Israel will face Spain, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Germany, France, and Turkey.
Jan Berteling, president of the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation, said that he “was aware that we are angering some people” by holding the championships in Israel.
“There was a lot of discussion about whether Israel could [host the games],” Berteling said. “But Israel is a regular member in quite good standing with the IWBF, and they deserve a chance.”
The decision to hold the games in the north – the teams will be based in Nazareth and practices will take place in surrounding towns – was also made with great care. Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Ra’anana were all in the running before Nazareth was chosen.
“Nazareth is a much more integrated city than what you have in the center of the country,” Berteling said.
Tel Aviv hosted the third Paralympic Games in 1968, but organizers and many of the officials at the draw were convinced that September’s championships will be the biggest sporting event in the country’s history.
“It’s a big event,” Berteling said. “We’ll have 74 games, which is more than you had at the World Cup last summer.
It’s a wide-ranging competition.
And we believe Israel will do a great job putting it together.”