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Badminton in Israel

Discussion in 'Middle East & South Asia' started by iyusim, Oct 13, 2008.

  1. iyusim

    iyusim Regular Member

    Oct 10, 2008
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  2. cooler

    cooler Regular Member

    Apr 25, 2002
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    Surfing, reading fan mails:D, Dilithium Crystal hu
    Basement Boiler Room
    Thu., May 21, 2009 Iyyar 27, 5769 | | Israel Time: 01:43 (EST+7)


    Badminton / Good for the soul, bad for the pocket

    By Nir Wolf

    The first time that Jeff Geffen was exposed to badminton was in 1967, when the boy next door was given a set that included two rackets and a shuttlecock. "I was fascinated," he recalls. "We used to play on the lawn outside our houses. It wasn't quite like the regulation equipment, but it was close enough. The neighbors knew the rules of the game, so there in the back yard, I learned how to play."

    That year also saw the construction of the first sports arena in Ashdod. Geffen was given permission to practice badminton in the brand-new hall, and did not let the low roof and the limited space prevent him and his partners from participating in what was then a rather odd-looking game, which looks a little like tennis but is completely different. Advertisement

    "I took out an ad in the Jerusalem Post and that's how we got in contact with two other groups of players. We tried to get a league going, but no one lasted long enough. In 1974, we discovered a new immigrant from Russia who was living in Jerusalem and who was looking for opponents and who had sent letters to all sorts of people asking for help. We decided to meet up with him once a month - one month in Jerusalem and the next month in Ashdod. Five years later, there were five badminton clubs in Israel and we would meet up on an ad-hoc basis for occasional games. In 1976, we decided to do something about it. We met up at an apartment in Tel Aviv and founded the Israel Badminton Association. I was elected chairman and we appointed some others to fill various positions - and that's how the sport officially began in Israel."

    The Geffen dynasty

    The Geffen family has since become something of a dynasty in Israeli badminton. While grandson Shay is the current torchbearer, Jeff is still an active player. "I'm still playing the game at 81," he says. "In fact, I play four times a week. I may have lost my speed over the years, but my reactions and my instincts are still sharp."

    Around 700 Israelis currently play badminton, of whom 50 are trying to make it as professionals, training every day and participating in official tournaments. There is a local league and one outstanding player, Misha Zilberman, the only Israeli who regularly participates in international tournaments. Zilberman's pedigree, incidentally, is excellent: His mother, Svetlana, has been Israeli women's champion for the past 15 years.

    The past two years have seen several initiatives aimed at promoting the sport in Israel. Next year, some schools will even run a pilot project in which high-school students will be introduced to badminton. But anyone who wants to watch badminton being played in Israel will be disappointed by the television coverage. There is none. Instead, they will just have to take themselves along to the National Championships, which will be held this weekend at the Weil Cultural Center in Kfar Shmariyahu.

    Chinese alternative

    The alternative, of course, it to travel to China, where the sport draws major crowds and where badminton stars are among the best-paid athletes in the country. "When I attended a training camp in China," says one of Israel's top players, Ilya Koniak, "I realized that they live in a totally different world. The Chinese players train very differently from us, in terms of intensity, fitness and technique. After eight years of training in Israel, I felt like I was starting to learn the sport from scratch." (chuckles lol)

    At the moment, Koniak's daily routine consists of compulsory military service in the morning, training children in the afternoon and personal practice in the evening. But he still wants to develop as a professional badminton player.

    "When I was drafted into the army, I told them that I am a badminton player and they looked at me as if had invented a new sport," he says with a wry smile. "People who are involved in running Israeli badminton do so because the love the sport, not because they want a career or to get rich. The current world champion is a guy my age, but I play the sport because I love it. It's good for the body and the soul."

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