BASKETBALL

Netanyahu welcomes back the Maccabi Tel Aviv players

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was amongst 30,000 supporters who welcomed back Maccabi Tel Aviv’s basketball team following a stunning Eurobasket win.

The Israelis claimed a sixth European title on Sunday night, their first since 2005, with a thrilling 98-86 overtime victory over Real Madrid in Milan on Sunday night.

Forced to leave Ben Gurion airport through a side exit due to the congestion at the arrivals terminal, the players and staff were due to meet Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai, but had to reaarange their plans after receiving a late invitation to meet Prime Netanyahu at his Tel Aviv office.

Maccabi chairman Shimon Mizrahi awarded Netanyahu a ball signed by all the players and staff, while Netanyahu told them: “David Blatt and I have something in common as this is his first Euroleague title as a head coach and it is also my first as a prime minister. You brought the country a lot of honour. You set an example for fighting spirit and I was on the edge of my seat. This was an uplifting win for the entire nation.”

Blatt said: “Part of our role is to represent the people of Israel and bring them honor and joy, we try to set an example and lead in the best way possible, just like you do for all of us.”

The players return to training on Wednesday, with them facing Hapoel Eilat in Game 1 of the play-off semi-finals for the domestic BSL title on Thursday.