Maccabi Tel Aviv vs. Moscow, 1977
Maccabi Tel Aviv vs. Moscow, 1977

As Egypt and Israel approach peace, their basketball teams approach the court

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Dec. 9, 1977

Although the ink isn’t dry yet, and won’t be for weeks to come, on Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s recent visit to Israel, the Israeli sport fraternities are already busily concocting ideas for meeting Egypt on the playing grounds.

The first proposal suggested by the sports philosophers is that Israel should play Egypt’s basketball team. As a matter of fact, the idea isn’t exactly a new one, since Dr. William Jones, retired head of the Federation of International Basketball Associations, which controls international amateur basketball, for the past several years has been exploiting the possibility of a “Peace Cup” engagement between the two countries. He has gone so far as to have a cup prepared in the event such a game comes to fruition,

Jones, who ruled F.I.B.A. with an iron hand over the past three decades or more, has always been kindly disposed towards Israel. As a matter of fact, he has leaned over backwards several times in helping them out of difficult situations. About seven or eight years ago, this writer, who through his connections as publicity director for the National Basketball League, knew Jones, ran into him on one of his frequent trips to the Holy Land. While I was there a member of the Hapoel organization approached me to intercede for an American Jewish youngster who was a professional player in the American Basketball Association. That youngster was Barry Leibowitz, who has performed with New York and two other teams in the now defunct ABA

The Tel Aviv Hapoel club was interested in getting Leibowitz reinstated as an amateur. In those days it was a difficult task, seemingly impossible, to pull off such a stunt with a dyed in the wool professional. Nevertheless, Jones gave us a solution which ultimately worked out to the benefit of the Hapoel organization. To this very day, Leibowitz, who was cleared with dispatch and regained his amateur status, is a star of the Hapoel Tel Aviv quintet.

If Egypt should go all the way and side with Israel, it will help tremendously on the sports side as well as on the political side since the Arab League as a bloc has tried to stymie all of Israel’s efforts in sports. Whenever a question arises as to the participation by Israel in a given set of games, the Arab bloc has made it a practice to vote against their Semitic cousins.

Since the Arabs always are backed by the Russians, once can readily see how easy it is or Israel to be blocked out of berths in a variety of international competitions.

With Egypt as a possible ally in the future, inroads may be made further into the Arab bloc to ease off pressuring countries to block Israel’s participation in any form of international sports.