Blatt's in a league of his own


There can be no greater feeling than walking into your boss’s office and shouting ‘show me the money’.

That probably didn’t cross David Blatt’s mind after Maccabi Tel Aviv’s heroic Euroleague success, but it appears he has bigger fish to fry following an achievement that few outside of Israel thought possible.

For an Israeli club in this day and age to be crowned champions of Europe is something quite special. The Maccabi fans dared to dream and their heroes delivered. The colourful scenes of celebration will live long in the memory.

With an Olympic bronze and European gold now in his locker, the NBA beckons for Blatt and no-one can deny the former Princeton player, who immigrated to Israel after the 1981 Maccabiah Games, the opportunity of a lifetime.

But news of Maccabi’s success did not go down well everywhere as almost 20,000 antisemitic tweets in Spanish were reported by the Catalonian Jewish organisations.

Many of the offensive messages included the words “Jews to gas chambers” and said they plan to jointly file a complaint alleging hate crimes and discrimination to State Attorney Miguel Angel Aguilar.

Responding to the tweets, Jai Anguita, president of Bet Shalom, shared his concerns: “I’m a firm defender of freedom of expression, but there must be a limit. We could say these comments came from high spirits following a defeat, that they are almost jokes. But history has shown us where these jokes can lead.”

* This leads me nicely on to Kick It Out’s 20th anniversary dinner earlier this week. The event featured a number of impassioned speeches, particularly from Gordon Brown and Martin Luther King III, as well as a thought-provoking video produced by Ivor Baddiel.

A lad on my table told me about an incident where he was taunted about his African roots during a match. He stood firm to ensure justice was served and the offender was banned for eight matches.

Here’s hoping the organisation gets the funding and recognition it deserves over the next 20 years.

* With Wimbledon around the corner, now could be the time to place a small bet on nine-year-old Raphy Howard-Yam to be a future champion.

The UCS pupil has been invited to compete at the prestigious Smirkva Bowl in Croatia next month and having recently signed a contract with Babolat, he’s definitely one to watch.

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