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Coming Full Circle

Posted September 28th, 2011

34 Years After Its Establishment the Canadian Team Will Play in the Canada Stadium

On the 6th May 1977, a year after the first Israel Tennis Center in Ramat Hasharon was established, an inauguration ceremony for the Canada Stadium was held with the presence of the country’s President Ephraim Katzir, who cut the ribbon. Next to him, on court 14 in Ramat Hasharon, stood the six founders of the ITC and Canadian donors who funded the construction, which took eight months. After the ceremony, the Israeli Davis Cup team, with Shlomo Glickstein and Yair Wertheimer, played an exhibition match against the Canadian team.

In May the stadium will celebrate its 35th birthday, so how appropriate that for the start of the celebrations, the Canadian team will arrive to take part in the first official Davis Cup tie against Israel. Many great moments have taken place in this wonderful stadium – from number one players in the world who have hit balls on it, international ATP tournaments, exhibition matches with the best players in the world, to unforgettable Davis Cup and Federation Cup ties. Hundreds of thousands spectators visited over the years and they witnessed the return of the Israeli team to the World Group, victories from Israeli players in tournaments and wins that entered the history books. The children who saw Shlomo Glickstein, Amos Mansdorf, Shahar Perkis and Gilad Bloom during the peak of their careers, dreamt of the moment they would be able to enjoy such moments. Today, those children – Dudi Sela, Amir Weintraub, Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich – will lead the Israeli team against Canada.

1976. Starting to build the Canada Stadium

Ian Froman, one of the six founders and former Israeli Davis Cup team member, talks about how the idea came about to build the Canada Stadium: “In 1974 we played a Davis Cup tie against Iran, in Ramat Gan, next to Spivak, on courts we received for three days. There were not enough toilets and showers and there was a lighting problem which prevented us from finishing the tie in three days. We got to the end of the matches on the fourth day, but the members of the club would not let us finish the international matches. We waited until they were done with their practice before we could continue. The whole situation was a real embarrassment for us and I understood that we needed to build a stadium to avoid further similar issues. After the inception of the ITC – Ramat Hasharon in 1976, we knew that the job was only half done if it didn’t also have a stadium with normal facilities and at least 3,000 seats which would be suitable to host Davis Cup matches and international tournaments.”

Froman turned to Joe Frieberg from Toronto and he agreed, together with other wonderful donors from Canada, to fund the construction of the stadium, which lasted from November 1976 until May 1977.

The Stadium during the first phase of contruction

Joe Frieberg, also one of the founding members, recalls the beginning stages of the ITC and the Canada Stadium: “It was the summer of 1975 when Dr. Bill Lippy came to Toronto to tell us of a plan to open a tennis facility in Israel, whose goals would be dedicated to teaching tennis to children of diverse backgrounds. These children would be taught leadership skills and respect for each other. It would help integrate immigrant children and teach tolerance and co-existence between Jews and Arabs. Of course, we immediately agreed that Canada would actively participate in this worthwhile project.”

Frieberg is very excited that there will be an official tie between the Israeli and the Canadian teams, especially because it will be played in the Canada Stadium. “It was Dr. Ian Froman who convinced our group of the importance for Israel to have a proper tennis stadium, if we were to attain our goal of using tennis as our medium to attract large numbers of children. 34 years after the exhibition matches there is an official tie between the two countries here. May the best country win – but the real winners are the children of Israel.”

The President, Ephraim Katzir cuts the ribbon at the opening ceremony

Froman concludes: “As every young international player’s dream is to play on Wimbledon’s Center court, it is the ambition and goal of every young budding Israeli tennis player to represent their country in the magnificent and unique Canada Stadium. Even after 34 years, the 4,500 seat Canada Stadium is an icon and landmark in Israel and it has stood the test of time. Over the years, it has proudly hosted nearly every international and Davis Cup match played in Israel to the highest of standards. Both in Israel and internationally, it is a well known and admired as a unique stadium. The Canada Stadium still maintains its unique aura and it remains the incentive for every young tennis player to push themselves and achieve their ambition to play on this court. What a symbolic and fortuitous happening that we are celebrating its 35th birthday by holding such an appropriate Davis Cup tie – Israel against Canada on its prestigious grounds. This tie will be a momentous occasion for the Canada Stadium.”

The opening ceremony in 1977. The Canadian Davis Cup team who played a
friendly match against Israel. Standing from left to right: Joseph Frieberg,
Gerry Goldberg, Jim Boyce, Greg Walder, Don Fontana (Captain) and
Dr. Ralph Halbert. Sitting: Rejean Genois and Dale power

This was a moment everyone dreamt of: a stadium filled with spectators