How is sambo developing in Israel? We talked about this with Pavel Musin, Vice-President of Israel Sambo Federation.
— First of all I would like to tell you about such significant events as European Championships, which was held in Cyprus. We are very glad that such high level competitions are held in spite of difficult conditions of pandemic. We saw that athletes continue to train, the level of their training is growing and sambo continues its development despite everything. Taking our team as an example, I can say that quarantine conditions have their advantages. We focused on the development and advancement of our athletes. The team was renewed a lot — mainly the youth team. There are lads who made a good debut at the European Championship in Cyprus and showed good results.
— How is sambo developing in your country now?
— We’ve been practicing sambo since 1976. In the eighties it was one of the most popular sports in Israel. But in the nineties and two-thousands years there was a serious decline. The federation existed formally, but there were no athletes in it. In 2013 we relaunched the federation and today we have 1,800 athletes who are constantly training and the number is growing. In recent years we have made great progress in the reconstruction and development of the federation. It’s a very good result for our country.
— How do you manage to attract young people to the sport?
— We’ve managed to get into the education system in every way we can and we’ve launched a number of school projects. Now we are negotiating with the state organization, which connects the Ministry of Sports and the Ministry of Education. Now the matter is to make sambo permanently included into the school sports system and introduce it in the school program. We hope for a positive result. At the moment we have already written the program and are discussing and approving it.
— How did you manage to revive the federation practically from the ashes in 2013?
— I used to compete in sambo in Russia and when I moved to Israel, where sambo simply did not exist in the nineties, I had to retrain in judo and continued to realize myself as an athlete and coach in that sport. But I always wanted to go back to sambo! When in 2013 I was offered to try and revive sambo in the country, I decided to give it a try. It was a brave decision and it was not easy, but at the same time very interesting to raise something from scratch. It was a rousing energy to create something substantial. And we did it! The first clubs were formed, the first stars, and everything got going.
— How many sambo clubs are now operating in Israel?
— As of today, there are 18 sambo clubs in our country. It doesn’t sound like much, but we’re a small country and clubs are now located in all parts of the country. Starting from the north to the south, our clubs evenly cover the territory. We are currently running a course for sambo instructor coaches in conjunction with the Ministry of Sports and our Institute of Physical Education. At the end of the summer, 18 new professional coaches will join the system and start working next school year in our projects, in our schools.
The club network is also expanding, new clubs are opening. Starting in September, we have plans to open new clubs in several major cities. The Federation supports this initiative, tries to help coaches with the opening of clubs, to give motivation and support — and then the process develops itself and development is inevitable.
— You have come a long way and done a great job. Do you regret that in your time you made a choice in favor of sambo? Not at all. It’s very interesting for me, I can’t say it’s easy, but I like the result and the perspective. Judo is still one of the most popular sports in our country and it’s very hard to compete with it. To make you understand the ratio: in the town where I run my club we have 36 judo clubs per town with a population of 300k people. I often find it difficult to explain to people the difference between sambo and judo and the advantage. But we talk to them, involve them, show them and make them interested, and little by little people come to our clubs and stay there.
— What is the best promotion of sambo in your opinion?
— Of course the best propaganda of the sport is major competitions. We were candidates for the 2021 European Youth Championships in Israel, but because of the pandemic we had to replay that. We hope to host it in the near future in 2023 or 2024, as it will give us a very strong push to develop and popularize sambo in the country. In 2015 we held the world championship among masters athletes over 35 years old. Although it is not considered an official tournament, but it gave us a huge boost and informational support in our media, electronic and print media. And people started to get interested, get to know our sport and get involved in it.
If we manage to hold an official Sambo tournament in Israel with the support of the Ministry of Sports and Tourism, it will be a completely different level, in completely different colors. Our government is now trying to bring as many international tournaments and championships as possible to the country. I think we will hold it at a very high level. We already hosted the World Cup — we raised the bar very high for everyone. And here we won’t lower it. We know how to organize such events!