This is a reflection from Team Blue USA Baseball Assistant Coach, Josh Katz.
On July 25, 2018, the nations of Argentina, Brazil, Canada, France, Great Britain, Holland, Hungary, Israel, Italy, South Africa, Spain, and the United States all took part in the Opening Ceremonies of the inaugural Maccabi Youth Games in Haifa. In what can best be described as an “Olympic-style” opening ceremony, over 800 athletes were cheered by thousands of spectators as they entered the arena country by country with the host country of Israel entering last to a thunderous ovation. The ceremony consisted of interviews with players and coaches from different countries; singing of the Israeli national anthem of Hatikvah; and music from Israeli artists, Static and Ben El performing to close out the festivities.
There were definite highlights from the night as one Italian soccer player notes, “This could not have been a better night. I am so happy to be with so many Jews and so many great people.” As the night continued, athletes and coaches traded apparel and pins with other countries. Many of the athletes had their eyes on the Argentinian soccer team as they had Lionel Messi jerseys for their opening ceremony outfit, “Messi is my favorite athlete. To have the chance to trade a USA shirt for a Messi jersey from an actual Argentinian was an incredible opportunity,” said a member of the USA delegation.
Many noted that the Maccabi Youth Games were the first time they had gotten over to the Holy Land. The experience to participate in the Maccabi Youth Games is extremely special. It is a dream for many to set foot on Israeli soil and compete in such a prestigious international sporting competition.
The Maccabi Youth Games are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Meeting athletes and coaches from around the world and getting to represent your country in the holiest country to the Jewish people is something that team USA will never forget.