When it comes to Middle Eastern sports, lacrosse certainly isn’t topping anyone’s list. In fact, lacrosse is something that many people in Israel haven’t even heard of. It’s funny because due to the citizenship laws allowing foreign players to be eligible to play for Israel’s national team, the small country is actually one of the best in the world. All while trying to explain to a bunch of Sabras why there’s a net attached to a stick…
As an entity, Israel Lacrosse has absolutely skyrocketed in recent years with both the men’s and women’s national teams making a name for themselves on the international stage, and of course the development of the sport in the country. Who cares if the best athletes in the Israel Premier Lacrosse League (IPLL for short) are North American? They’re the ones training young Israelis to be the future of the sport. And, let’s be honest, that’s the best way to do it.
In fact, the massive growth in lacrosse development in Israel is what triggered my recent interest in the sport. Tomorrow night, Haifa LC will be facing off against Barak Netanya LC in the IPLL’s first ever championship at Ashkelon’s New Municipal Stadium. What’s remarkable about this matchup extends beyond the allure of a league’s inaugural championship tilt to the progress made by lacrosse within Israel over just a few short years.
When I first heard that lacrosse was actually a thing in Israel, the ‘league’ consisted of two teams who would essentially scrimmage against each other from time to time. These clubs, from Jerusalem and Tel Aviv (obviously) have now evolved into a four-team league, where the two newest squads will be vying for the championship title.
You have to understand the overall world of uncommon sports in Israel to really get how awesome this is. Israel is known for basketball, soccer and handball (random, I know). While many, many other sports are played here, those that fall into the more North American category – baseball, hockey, football and lacrosse – have been generally restricted to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, with the exception of hockey because the players go where the ice is.
While the IFL, Israel’s American football league includes 10 teams from all over the country, the championship teams have all come from either Tel Aviv or Jerusalem in recent years. The IAB (Israel’s baseball governing body) also offers some its best ball when the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv teams are involved.
However, with tomorrow night’s championship matchup, lacrosse is breaking the mold. Sure Haifa is an amazing sports town with its extremely talented soccer and basketball teams, but lacrosse? Never would have guessed that one. And Netanya? Ditto.
No matter who wins and becomes the IPLL’s first-ever champion will prove just how much of a trailblazer Israel Lacrosse is. It will set the stage for football teams from Be’er Sheva and Mazkeret Batya and baseball teams from Modi’in to make a name for themselves on the national level.
Considering the emphasis placed by Israel Lacrosse on developing the sport across the country, it deserves a pat on the back for the hype surrounding Thursday’s championship game and the positive implications from the outcome. I will be attending the matchup in Ashkelon because sporting events like this don’t come around very often, especially in Israel.
Seeing how I am relatively new to the sport, I won’t be cheering for Haifa or Netanya, but rather for Israel Lacrosse and the continued development and success of the league (hey, I need ideas for articles, right?). Should be a good one.
To learn more about Israel Lacrosse visit their incredible site.
For my updates from the IPLL Championship, follow me on twitter @adavis_29