Arab Israeli beach soccer club wins European championship for first time

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An Arab Israeli beach soccer club made history Sunday by winning the Euro Winners Cup 2023 with a dramatic win in the final against Italy’s Lenergy Pisa in a penalty shootout.

“Falfala” Kfar Qassem BS Club is the most successful team in the history of Israel’s short-lived beach soccer national league, having won five championships in the 13 years in which the league was active between 2007 and 2019.

Though the league has not held a game for the past four years, mainly due to the coronavirus pandemic, the team has continued to play and went on to represent the Jewish state in the European championship, which was held this year in Nazaré, Portugal, as the latest national champions.

Last year, Kfar Qassem finished third in the European championship, and this year marks the first time an Israeli squad has clinched the title.

After impressive wins 9-2 over France’s Marseille in the quarterfinal and 4-2 over Spain’s Huelva in the semis, the final was hard-fought, with Kfar Qassem taking the lead twice thanks to goals by Swiss goalkeeper Eliott Mounoud and Pisa coming back each time to level the score.

Eventually, a penalty shootout emerged as the tiebreaker for the title. After Pisa missed one of its kicks, Kfar Qassem’s captain Amer Yatim netted the final penalty to kick off the Israeli team’s celebration.

“It’s an amazing feeling that can’t be described. Joy,” team owner Amer Nimer told Channel 12 news on Monday. “Something amazing that we have done for the first time in Israeli soccer. There are no words. I called my mother and father and told them: ‘I got a trophy.’ That was the most important to me.”

Nimer said he was working with authorities to revive the national beach soccer league, expressing hope that the sport “will be taken more seriously in the country.”

He said the whole team was taking a two-day vacation in Istanbul, Turkey, to celebrate the win, with the players set to land in Israel with the trophy on Wednesday.

President Isaac Herzog tweeted his congratulations, hailing the team’s “impressive effort and special achievement in a special sport.”

“Kafr Qassem is on the map!” Herzog added.

The victory comes a week after Israel clinched the bronze medal in the Under-20 World Cup soccer tournament in Argentina.

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