Judo / Future Bleak Despite Historic Victory

The European U-23 Championships begins in 3 weeks, but the competition has been removed from the Israel Judo Federation's annual program due to lack of funds.

The fact that the Israeli men's judo team made history over the weekend by winning the European team championships for the first time won't really change the ridiculous situation in which the sport finds itself.

The European U-23 Championships begins in three weeks' time, but the competition has been removed from the Israel Judo Federation's annual program due to a lack of funds.

In the Israeli sports reality, there are no budgets for competitions for such age groups - only for youths and seniors, as confirmed yesterday by Gili Lustig, head of Israel's Elite Sports Unit. "Personally, I think every world or European championship deserves funding," he said.

Eddie Koaz, chairman of the IJF, thinks so too. "If I had a budget, I would send a delegation of 12 people, and I believe we would maintain the level of achievements that we have demonstrated throughout the year," he said.

Only two judokas will represent Israel at the championships - Tania Siman-Tov, who is being funded by her personal sponsor, and Rostik Lis, who played a part in the weekend triumph and is being sponsored by his club, Hapoel Bat Yam.

The other judokas, who do not have sponsors and are unable to fund the trip themselves, will not be going to the competition. Alon Sasson, who was a part of the squad that won the European team competition over the weekend, is one of the unlucky ones.

"My coach, David Reznick, and I have thought about it, and I haven't given up yet; but it's the decision of the federation, and there is no money. If there is, I am sure I can do well at the championship," he said.

Israel's triumphant judokas returned home yesterday and were welcomed at Hadar Yosef Stadium, where they held a press conference.

"We didn't think such an achievement would come so quickly," said Koaz at the welcome-home ceremony. "I want to thank the sportsmen, who took to the mat and fought like lions despite the fact that there were no replacements for them ... Hearing Hatikva in the hall in Hungary was very emotional. The achievement is even greater because we went there without the injured Arik Ze'evi."

Israel captain Yoel Rozvozov:

"We made history by beating [judo] superpowers such as France. Everyone wanted to get us in the draw because we were relatively weak. I didn't think we had a chance of winning the gold medal without Arik, but everyone fought hard... It saddened me to open the newspapers today and saw a headline about soccer and something small about judo. This is the first time the Israeli team has won the title of European champion, and people don't understand the achievement and the history we have made."

Deputy Sports Minister Majali Wahabi, who was also on hand to greet the victorious judokas said the sport would be the first to enjoy a budget increase in 2006.