TEL AVIV (Dec. 4)
It was a triumph in defeat and it warmed the hearts of Jews throughout the Soviet Union on a frigid Saturday.
The Hapoel volleyball team from Kiryat Ata, the Israeli champions, played the Moscow Dynamos, the Soviet Cup-holders in Moscow.
Hapoel was soundly beaten — 15-8, 15-3 and 15-2 — in what was the first round of the European Cup tournament.
But the contest was clearly a case where the game was more important than the victory.
The televised match was the first time in the 21 years since Moscow severed diplomatic relations with Israel that Israeli and Russian sports teams met anywhere but in a third country.
The Israelis got a tremendous reception from the crowd and the press.
Moishe Alpia, the Kiryat Ata club manager, reported in a telephone interview from Moscow that their welcome from Jews and non-Jews was “outstanding.”
He said that many Jewish spectators waved Israeli flags and chanted “Hapoel, Hapoel” throughout the game.
Although the Israelis lost, the only carping in Israel was from the ultra-Orthodox parties, which complained to the mayor of Kiryat Ata that he allowed the team to play on the Sabbath.
Hapoel will have a chance to even scores when the Muscovites come to Israel next week for a return match.
Meanwhile, eyes are on Israel’s championship Maccabee Tel Aviv basketball team, which is scheduled to play the CSKA Red Army sports club team in Moscow Jan. 12. A return match in Tel Aviv is scheduled for March 2.