Photo: Shalom Bar Tal
'Just hit the ball, instead of other people' (archives)
Photo: Shalom Bar Tal

Meet the Tel Aviv kings of matkot

Israelis share their enthusiasm for nation's favorite beach sport, which they say is both fun and provides a great workout

VIDEO – The beach season has opened up in Tel Aviv, and various athletes – both professional and amateur – make their way to the beaches daily. Many of them come to play the most popular beach sport in Israel, known as "matkot," a type of paddle ball.


Video courtesy of (Reporter: Sivan Raviv)


"Matkot is a game that was invented in Israel," says matkot player Shay Gur. "It's a game that you play with each other, not against each other. It's actually a game of defense and offense and that's it. Sometimes you do the defense and sometimes you attack. You have to do your shots towards the opponent so you have to do it so he can return the ball exactly to you in the same angle."


According to Liron Aharonson, "There are few women that really connect to this game. I had never lifted a matka until like four or five years ago when a friend told me, 'Come here and let's try,' and it was just like love at first touch."


This group of Israeli players are devoted to their game. They advocate that it is both fun and provides a great workout.


Is this a sport?


"Not a national sport or something but I think it's going to become one," says Shay Gur. "But the thing is there are no rules, there are no points, nothing. But it's a good sport."


Yair Ace has been titled "king of the matkot" on the Israeli street.


"I'm the best player in Israel," he says. "I know all the games in matkot, I play fast, strong, defense, attack, I teach people to play. Matkot is a sport, but you can be like me – fat, drink and eat and play every day also. It's a sport of Israel, like falafel."


Matkot museum

A few beaches over we find Amnon Nissim playing with his friends. He is slightly older and with rich experience from way back in the 1950s.


Along with his friend Moris, Amnon decided to establish a museum dedicated solely to the purpose of exhibiting different types of "matka" rackets from all times.


Down the main street in the Neve Tzedek neighborhood in Tel Aviv is the museum, which appears to be the only one of its kind in the world. It is located inside Nissim's house and open for visitors who wish to be exposed to this one segment of Israeli history.


"Matkot is first of all an Israeli thing," Nissim says. "Nahum Gutman in 1932 painted children playing matkot, which means matkot was played even before the establishment of the State of Israel.


"Israel has many beaches and in all the beaches people play matkot. It's what you can call a national symbol, and matkot is an Israeli sport."


Nissim, who has been playing the Israeli sport for 60 years, lives here on his own, just him and his matkot, most of which he received as gifts.


"First and foremost I am a matkot player. I play nearly 62 years already and it is my life," he says. "Matkot is my greatest love of all. I love this game, I play with my whole soul and I fight for the hard balls, the ones which other people wouldn't go for."


The museum is free of charge because Nissim says passion and money don't mix together. And out on these Tel Aviv beaches, there is plenty of passion displayed.


"We play like Israelis," says Liron Aharonson. "We like to get it all out, all the energy and anger and everything. Just hit the ball, instead of other people, I guess."



פרסום ראשון: 06.22.13, 09:18
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