Brazil – Here we come

December 13, 2011 by David Weiner-Maccabi NSW
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The countdown is over for Maccabi Australia’s team heading to the Pan America Games in Sao Paolo. They depart for Brazil on Wednesday ready to do Australia’s Jewish community proud wearing the green and gold.

It is the sixth time Maccabi Australia has been a part of the Pan America Games. Although MAI is only taking a small contingent, with Maccabiah 2013 remaining a priority, the Games in Sao Paolo represent another demonstration of the vibrant international community to which Maccabi sportspeople belong.

MAI president and Australia’s Head of Delegation Lisa Borowick says MAI was thrilled to accept Australia’s invitation to attend an event heavily revolving around North and South American participation, particularly after Brazil’s support for the Maccabi Australia International Games in December 2010

One of the hallmarks of Australia’s 2011 squad is the 15-strong female football side, captained and coached by Olympian Tal Karp. This is the major team being sent by MAI.

Borowick says it is a sign of MAI’s plan to encourage and foster increased numbers in female sport, particularly in the open aged division.

“MAI aims to promote participation in sport by providing the opportunity for Jewish athletes to compete on many levels, nationally and in this case internationally,” Borowick said.

“We targeted a womens sport to be the base of the squad to encourage greater female participation and allow these athletes to receive invaluable international experience in the lead up to 2013,” Borowick said.

Other highlights to look out for in Australia’s squad are:

·         Beach volleyball duo Arthur Bobrow and Danny Skrabal, who boast experience on the sport’s international circuit, will look to add to their successful Maccabi international record with a strong showing.

·         Former MAI president and 2013 Maccabiah Head of Delegation Harry Procel makes his debut in the masters golf tournament, gaining entry by beating the qualifying scores.

·         Opens tennis player David Sofaer is the squad’s marquee athlete. He is a former Wimbledon junior tennis player who is currently on a tennis scholarship at Pepperdine University in America, and is a strong chance to add Pan Ams gold to his success at Maccabiah in 2009.

·         Masters swimmer Trevor Weinstein was a star performer in the pool in 2009 and will be a strong medal chance in Sao Paolo.

·         Table tennis veteran Sam Parasol has medalled at every one of his Maccabi international events, and will look to add to that record in Sao Paolo.

Australia’s contingent heading to Brazil for the Pan America Games in Sao Paolo will include a 15-strong female football squad, to be player-coached by former Australia representative Tal Karp.

Rear: Raphi Waltman (WA), Genia Avram (Vic),Louise Segan (Vic),Amy Seskin (NSW),Talya Mossenson (WA),Lauren Broit (NSW),Naomi Mossenson (Vic),Deena Metz (NSW),Tal Karp (Vic), Front : Laura Waltman (WA),Teri Lazarus (WA),Lani Kahn (Vic), Alice Kriesler (NSW)

In a further boost to the sport, former AJAX Amsterdam youth coach Mark Abro has come on board and will join the side in an assistant’s role.

The group includes six girls under 18 years of age and eight who have Maccabiah experience, and is made up of an even representation across New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia.

The trip to the Games will build on the strides made in women’s football at a national level under Sydney Kahn’s management at Maccabiah 2009 – and there is a firm eye placed on their return to Israel in 2013.

But despite the emphasis on development, Karp says the group are aiming for a medal in Sao Paolo.

“We aim to bring home a medal,” Karp said.

“Although development of players is also clearly a priority, it is time our women’s football program made the statement that we are a country to beat.”

Distance has made it difficult for the girls to get together for regular training, but the squad held a four-day training camp recently in Melbourne. It included an impressive practice match against 2011 Victoria Premier League champions South Melbourne, which the girls won 2-1.

Genia Avram – who was a member of South Melbourne’s victorious squad in the VPL – donned Maccabi colours for the first time and bagged a double. Her venture to Sao Paolo will be her first taste of Maccabi sport.

Karp praised the dedication shown by the girls in the lead-up to the Games, which included the Melbourne contingent meeting at 6.15am for training sessions in the lead-up.

“What excites me about this team is the eclectic group of players we have brought together,” Karp added.

“Our squad is made up of a number of talented young players, who bring a great deal of energy and enthusiasm into our line-up, together with several players with significant playing experience.

“We have footballers who have competed many times for Maccabi at a national and international level, and others, who have never been involved with Jewish sporting teams. We have also – for the first time in women’s football at least – tapped into the pool of WA talent, with five WA representatives making up our squad of 15.”

Sydney Kahn believes the tour has already increased the hype around womens football ahead of 2013, with interest indicating that there will be strong competition for places in the Maccabiah squad to go to Israel.

Tal agrees, adding that Sao Paolo is “also a very important step in building a competitive team for Maccabiah 2013”.

“Playing in an international tournament against some of the best countries in the world, each with different playing styles; is an incredible challenge and opportunity for our girls,” she said.

Karp and Kahn have also welcomed the inclusion of Mark Abro’s technical expertise. Abro moved to Western Australia eight months ago to helm the state’s Maccabi set-up and new sports centre. He brings professional playing experience in South Africa, Canada and USA, and coaching stints at youth level at AJAX Amsterdam and clubs in Sweden, to the table, and is relishing his role with Maccabi.

“I’m really grateful to be involved,” Abro said. “Wherever I can add value from my expertise, it would be fantastic. I’m loving what I’m doing (in Western Australia).”

Abro admits it has been a challenge adjusting from a professional culture overseas to local sport in Western Australia, but is glad he took the plunge and can’t wait to begin his involvement with football at a Maccabi Australia level, in Brazil.

“I’m very passionate about Maccabi soccer and getting more and more involved and helping them.”

The team will come up against Brazil, USA, Venezuela and Columbia in a round robin format, before the competition progresses to semi-finals and a grand final.

Australia will take a 46-strong team to the Games, which commence on December 26.

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