Israel firefighters' soccer team won the gold medal Tuesday at the World Firefighters' Games being held in Daegu, South Korea, with a 5-3 win over Venezuela.
Teams come from all over the world to the biannual World Firefighter Games, where they participate in events that include bowling, boxing, climbing, chess, darts, dragon boat racing, paintball, poker, tug of war, arm wrestling and also more firemen-specific events like the bucket brigade contest, fire truck challenge, firehouse cook-off, and a ‘toughest firefighter alive’ challenge.
Yoav Gadassi, the head of the Firefighters' Union, also led the Israeli delegation to the games. He told Arutz Sheva's Hebrew-language service that the soccer team's victorious moment was one of great national pride. “There were almost 60 teams participating, including the Arab states and Iran,” he related. “We have been competing in this contest since 1999 and for us this is an unprecedented achievement: for the first time in history, Israel is the world champion in soccer in the firefighters' 'Olympics.'”
"We trained a lot,” he said, “we prepared mentally for the competition, and we reached great achievements. We beat France, Brazil and Hong Kong and I believe we won because of our faith as well.”
The Israeli team is doing very well in the Toughest Firefighter Alive competition as well, Gadassi said. The contest is made up of four grueling challenges that include running with oxygen balloons and firefighting equipment, carrying a 90 kilogram human doll and climbing a steep wall.
Gadassi said that passing in front of the Iranian delegation with an Israeli flag held high and singing the national anthem with Iranians looking on were exceedingly proud moments: “The organizers did everything to prevent us from meeting face to face but the Iranians also slept in our hotel. They made efforts not to make eye contact or come near us, but we walked with the Israeli flag in the hotel for everyone to see. There were countries like Kuwait there that were very supportive but the Iranians did not come near. We could see the envy in their eyes.”
Does the Israeli firefighters' immense experience with fighting nationalistically-motivated Arab arson have anything to do with their success in the games? We may never know. But there is something comforting in the thought.