The dust has long since settled on the 2013 UEFA European Under-21 Championship, but for tournament director Ronen Hershco, the finals have left Israel with more than just happy memories.
Speaking to UEFA.com, Hershco noted with satisfaction that by staging a successful tournament in June, Israel showed that it has four stadiums – in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Petah Tikva and Netanya – "really prepared to host matches and national events in the near future".
That is part of the "legacy" of the finals whose family-friendly atmosphere was another huge plus, according to Hershco, who reflected on the heartening sight of "three generations walking to the stadium" for matches.
He added: "Someone texted me and said: 'I just want to let you know that a few days ago my father went to the stadium for the first time in 15 years. He is almost 50 and he said, 'Wow, I'm going to go back to watch sporting events.'' For me, this is the most important [thing]."
Israel had never before held a major football championship, so Herscho was delighted to see such positive reactions. "The majority [of people]," he continued, "said that they sat in the stadiums and it felt like they could be sitting in any big stadium abroad." Israel's players did their bit too, earning a historic first U21 finals victory against England as they finished just one point shy of semi-finalists Norway in Group A. Hershco is hopeful the whole experience will herald better times for the sport in the country – both on and off the pitch.
Click on the interview above to hear Herscho reflect in full on a memorable fortnight for Israel.
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