Israeli and Iranian coaches share Olympic handshake

“I must concentrate on basketball and not politics,” said the Iranian coach.

By Josh Plank, World Israel News

Following the 84-78 victory of the Czech Republic basketball team against Iran at the Tokyo Olympics on Sunday, the Iranian coach shook hands with the Israeli who coaches the Czech team.

“The handshake of the Israeli coach? I must concentrate on basketball and not politics,” Iranian coach Mehran Shahintab said after the game, according to Israel’s Sport 5.

Ronen “Neno” Ginzburg, a 57-year-old Tel Aviv native who has coached the Czech national team since 2013, told Ynet, “I shook his hand before the game started, and at the end we also talked a bit about basketball.”

“I hope he has somewhere to go back. Maybe this is also a message to the leaders,” he said.

After the game, some of the Iranian players also shook Ginzburg’s hand, while others chose not to.

“I shook hands with four or five of their players. Apparently, some of them were less suited to shake my hand,” said Ginzburg.

The two coaches first met when the players were beginning to warm up about an hour before the start of the game.

“As I entered the court, I had to go past him. I extended my hand to him, and he shook it,” said Ginzburg.

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“I think for them as soon as I play under a different flag, the attitude is different. I can say he was a nicer coach than other coaches I’ve worked with before,” he said.

Ginzburg expressed some concern last week over whether the Iranian team would even agree to play against a team led by an Israeli.

“Hopefully, the guys from Iran will show up,” Ginzburg told Ynet. “Obviously, it’s special that an Israeli coach is leading a team against Iran. I just hope they’ll come to play,” he said.

Ginzburg told the Jerusalem Post last week, “I feel that wherever I am, I represent Israel even though I am the coach of the Czech Republic National Team as I am the Israeli that coaches them.”

“It’s a huge honor to be Jewish in this role as well as I always want to do the best that I can as a coach and as a person being outside of Israel. It is something that I don’t hide,” he said.