Women's Basketball / One Great Empire, but No Real League

The State Cup final reflected all the deep problems of women's basketball in Israel. The future looks gloomy.

Several years ago, when Maccabi Ashdod began its climb to the top of Israeli woman's basketball, it was very crowded up there: Ramat Hasharon and Ramle divided the titles and just waited to tear the life out of the new contender. At present, after claiming the last three titles, it's clear that Ashdod is now the top dog.

Unfortunately, if it looks around it sees a void. No one else is there anymore.
At the cup final Thursday night, at the Maccabi arena, no miracle was ever going to happen. Hapoel Petah Tikva couldn't even get close to Ashdod, which blew out the underdog 95-68. The slaughter reflects the worst crisis of woman's basketball for decades, a time when most of the talent is concentrated in one team, and one can no longer hope for any sense of competition.

Even Culture and Sports Minister, Limor Livnat, had no other way of passing the time than whispering in the ear of Avner Kopel, the chairman of the Israeli Basketball Association. According to their expressions, their conversation was ever more interesting than the game itself.

Before Ashdod thrashed Petah Tikva, someone discovered that Petah Tikva had already reached the final once, in pre-historic times. The problem is that since the last time that happened, in the 1960s, nothing much has changed in Petah Tikva. The club has no arena, is practically broke, and doesn't even have a ten player squad. In the 1960s this amateurish spirit blended perfectly with the times. In 2013, when such a club reaches the State Cup final, it only reflects the deep crisis.

In its golden years the basketball women's league was as attractive as a league could be, due to its competitiveness. At the start of the season one could never know who would be champion, and at the beginning of the cup final, it was anyone's guess who would celebrate with the cup after it was all over.

Contrasting Maccabi Tel Aviv's complete dominance in men's basketball, it was a refreshing aspect of the sport. Now, that too is a remnant of the past.

Women's basketball now needs an emergency operation, maybe a panel of experts to formulate a short-term and long-term rehabilitation plan. Such a plan would be presented to the heads of the basketball association, and together with the relevant political officials, they could decide if they really want to have professional women's basketball in Israel, and how it should be managed.

If nothing this dramatic takes place, we'll have a mere 70 spectators in the State cup final in two years, instead of 700. Fortunately, the game itself did not supply any misleading makeup, since this disturbing truth cannot be concealed any longer.

Nir Keidar