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"Those three months turned into 49 years"

The most permanent interim appointment possible, setting the first goals, the first tickets and what was hidden inside the chair in Moscow, a conversation with Shimon Mizrahi who enters his 50th year as the club's chairman - a presidential jubilee

16/07/2018
HOME · News Archive · "Those three months turned into 49 years"
It wasn't that long ago, July 1st to be exact, that Shimon Mizrahi has started his 50th year as the Maccabi's chairman. For this amazing milestone we sat down with the most mythological president in the world of European basketball for a conversation that sums up a presidential jubilee including rare anecdotes from his tenure.

Last month Shimon Mizrahi arrived to the EuroLeague's board meeting in Barcelona, much to his surprise he was applauded by all of the teams' representatives who congratulated him for his presidential jubilee in Maccabi. In a relaxed conversation held at the club's office, he talked about the first goals he had set for himself, experiences that were beyond the iron curtain and he even smiled, you are welcome to see for yourselves.    

The most permanent interim appointment

Members of the fan club who were close to the club met to discuss how to get the team out of the crisis. They decided that I should be at the helm of the fan club. Mizrahi remembers the meeting held in the summer of 1969. The late Israel Goral who was then the chairman of the basketball department, asked to fill the position till the end of December and I said yes, those three months turned into 49 years". 

Setting the first goals

"We set ourselves the goal of returning the crown to its former glory and winning the championship and the cup", said the chairman, "Of course that on a European level, to bring the club within 10 years to the level of an accomplished club like Real Madrid, and to my great joy we managed to do that in 8 years when we won our first EuroLeague championship in Belgrade" he added.

Israel, is that in Europe?

"Everyone kept saying: you're like Egypt, you're like Jordan. You're not in Europe, either you are in Asia or in Africa", depicted attorney Mizrahi. The late William Jones, who was the chairman of FIBA at that time, had an open mind, he was an intelligent man that helped us a lot with this issue. He declared that Maccabi and Israel are a part of Europe, to the disliking of many". 

The first visit in the USSR

"Arriving to the airport in Moscow, witnessing tens of Jews who arrived from Bukhara who came to welcome us with fruits and vegetables, was very exciting. We also met with people who wanted to immigrate but were refused, and we had no doubt that we were under constant surveillance".

"The consular representative was staying in our hotel and on game day, he knocked on our door, he entered and we talked, 10 minutes later he left the room. Two minutes after that the Babushka who was responsible for our floor, came into our room and took the chair. We didn't understand what was happening… (Laughing)…. Why did she took the chair? 30 minutes later she came back with the chair, and then we realized it was bugged. A memory that will last for a lifetime".     

The first ticket ever sold by Maccabi

"My love for the sport was taken from my parents, who played tennis in Maccabi's old courts on Maccabi Street, back then anyone could enter as there was no fence, not to mention those who watched the games from standing in their balconies, but we took it step by step. I said that the first thing we have to demarcate the old courts, then near the stairway there was a porthole and that's where we decided to put the ticket office. And I said that the first ones that to buy the tickets would be all the members of the management Aryeh Baranovich, Zvi Rol, myself and all the members of the management. We said that nobody would be allowed in without buying a ticket, which cost 2 Israeli Lira (old currency) at that time, but it was the principal that mattered.

"Then after putting up the fences and covering them, we added benches so that the people can sit. One day without any notice whatsoever we demarcated the courts with blocks. One of our "beloved fans" called the police on us and a police officer named Biderman who apparently was a Hapoel fan took Aryeh and me to the police station on Dizengoff St. and told us "you'll be here in lock-up". We asked on what pretenses, he responded "because you are building a fence without a permit". We replied: "Sir, what do we need a permit for? Besides what are you? A city Inspector?" In the end they understood they had no cause to arrest us. We worked all night and the fence was completed; and from that point on it was clear that there's no entrance to the Friday games without purchasing tickets".       
 
Community Contribution

"I think that everyone who feels that belongs to the country and that the country belongs to him, needs to ask what he can do for the country. So if someone thinks that politics does not exactly fit him then he needs to find a way to contribute. I thought that sports was the right way. I have to quote the late Israeli president, the late Chaim Herzog who coined the phrase that "The most loyal ambassador to the state of Israel is Maccabi Tel Aviv".  

The Vision

The only thing that will always remain the same is the dedication and love for the club. If you manage to instill it among the players, I think it will be a great lever for success in the future. 


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