Matcot: an Israeli obsession

Tel Aviv’s beaches are world famous.

Warm, friendly, clear waters; miles of golden yellow sand; boundless blazing sunshine; and an endless parade of lithe tanned Israeli beauties in skimpy bikinis (and skimpier speedos!) flashing just a little more than their sparkling pearly whites.

What the tourism authority fails to mention, however, is that a visit to Israeli beaches is also a high risk activity.

The unwary tourist will head to the beach to absorb those gloriously warm UV rays in a foolish attempt to replicate the tans of the brown, army-toned Israeli bodies all around them. They will swim in the lush blue water, and laze peacefully on the beach. Until all of a sudden “bang! bang! bang! bang! bang! bang!”.

Don’t worry, they aren’t being shot at; but something almost as dangerous to one’s health.

They’ve been surrounded by Matcot players.

Matcot is Israel’s national sport. In principal, it is a kind of beach-tennis (think Ping-Pong without the table) that is portable, stupidly easy to play (there are no rules; you just hit the ball back and forth, and back and forth, and back and forth), and should, thus, provide fun for the whole family. In practice, however, it is a hard, fast, aggressive duel, played by balding, leathery, middle-aged men in speedos. So popular is this insatiable desire to smack a little rubber ball as hard as you can at your opponent, and so passionate are the participants (games go on for hours), that on weekends a simple stroll along an Israeli beach can become a seriously hazardous activity, as you constantly dodge getting hit.

And be warned, just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water at night, these passionate players don’t let a little thing like darkness curb their enthusiasm.

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