By George Orfanakis/ firstname.lastname@example.org
The Israeli basketball coach and former player is a figure that will connect Panathinaikos and Maccabi forever.
Besides, the course of these two clubs is so long that it has brought them face-to-face many times, with memories that include feelings of joy and sorrow.
There is one night, however, that the Greens’ fans would like to experience again and again! On April 20, 2000, Panathinaikos beat Maccabi in the Final Four in Thessaloniki and sewed the 2nd European star on their jersey.
Eurohoops goes back in time and unearths a story about the big final, Oded Kattash, Maccabi’s fans and of course Panathinaikos.
The fast, the Jewish Passover and the pale Kattash
The Final Four in Thessaloniki was held in the sports arena in Pylaia in the three days between 18 and 20 April, which means that the big final coincided with the Jewish Passover.
This specific piece of information would have been of no interest whatsoever to Panathinaikos if Oded Kattash was not on the roster. It was fate that the then 26-year-old guard should go up against his former team during one of the most special times of the year.
On Wednesday night, which means one day before the title game, Kattash had been given a special permit from the Greens to attend a synagogue and celebrate with his compatriots.
So, there were many peculiarities. The fasting of the previous days, the nervousness ahead of the crucial game, his opponents and the little sleep he had gotten before the game had worn out Kattash, who showed up pale and almost exhausted.
The amazing performance and the trophy win against his… former love
As it usually happens in these cases, the fatigue and mixed emotions are put aside once the game begins.
Kattash may have gone up against former teammates and coaches but he more than honored his commitment to Panathinaikos by hurting Maccabi with 17 points (2-for-3 three-pointers, 11-for-14 free throws) and some very crucial plays at the end. Besides, shortly before jump ball, he himself had… reassured Zeljko Obradovic: “Coach, don’t worry, we’re definitely going to win. I know that Maccabi doesn’t have anyone to guard me.”
Sure enough, his three-pointer with the score at 60-57 in favor of the Greek team made his compatriots go… quiet and brought the Greens within reach of the title. This was confirmed a few minutes later when the Greens became one as they started celebrating the European title.
The Israeli, however, had a… myriad reasons to head first to console his opponents. In the above picture, you can see Kattash in an embrace with Doron Sheffer, two unique personalities for Maccabi, in one of the most powerful moments of the final, a few seconds after the final buzzer.
The exhausted Kattash was now triumphant and together with Zeljko Rebraca, the night’s big protagonist. To this day, almost 18 years later, his name comes up first in the minds of the fans of Panathinaikos and Maccabi when it comes to this final. But the story is not over yet…
The meeting at the airport and the crying
The last act of an eventful three days took place at the airport. Panathinaikos’s contingent went from the arena to the hotel and from there they went to the airport in order to return to Athens together with the trophy.
But so did hundreds of Maccabi’s fans, who, in a gesture of impeccable fan behavior, gave Kattash one of the most beautiful moments of his career!
As soon as the player was spotted by his compatriots, he was met with the ultimate apotheosis. Take note! We’re talking about the protagonist of the final and the man who deprived Maccabi of the opportunity to return to the throne after the 1980-1981 season. How many would do something like that nowadays?
Kattash’s name was chanted by the people who lifted him in their arms and made him cry in what was a very rare scene. “You are one of us,” “forever yellow” were some of the Israelis’ chants that electrified the atmosphere and wrote the afterword to a very beautiful basketball story.