The Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball team returned to Israel today after an astounding victory at the Euroleague basketball final in Milan. In an overtime upset on Sunday night, Maccabi unexpectedly defeated Real Madrid, JTA reports. Many of the approximately 10,000 Israelis who flew to Italy for the game celebrated the 98-86 victory in the streets of Milan, and revelers took to the streets in Israel as well, flooding Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square. Thousands more headed to the airport Monday afternoon to greet the returning champions.
Fans had low expectations for Maccabi’s performance in the Euroleague, based on the team’s disappointing performance in the Israeli basketball league in the past six years. Reportedly, about a third of Israeli citizens watched Sunday’s game live, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres both called to congratulate Maccabi’s head coach after the win. “I watched the whole game and nearly had a heart attack,” Peres reportedly told the coach, “You are heroes and have brought incredible pride to the State of Israel.”