The Jewish Link and The Humble Toast would like to recognize Liora Afilalo as this week’s Sportstar of the Week. The 13-year-old is an eighth grader at Manhattan Day School and is a terrific athlete. Liora began playing soccer at age 2, and has been on the West Side Soccer League team since second grade. She likes to play goalie, but is mainly a great shooter and is known for her Appele De Ball (Ball Call) move. Her coaches describe her as a team player, always assessing her role in any play and how she can assist other team players. In fifth grade, she branched out to basketball. She is on the MDS middle school varsity basketball team and has played in the varsity basketball league at Camp Mesorah and Hustle & Heart basketball camp at Camp Lavi last month. While she primarily plays basketball and soccer, she also enjoys acro and aerial gymnastics. During the pandemic, when Zoom school finished at 3 p.m. and there were no activities, she taught herself acro moves using YouTube videos. She would watch videos for two hours after Zoom school and then wake up at 7 a.m. to do her stretching before class. Liora is an all-around athlete who truly enjoys sports. Her other interests include reading and writing (she wrote and self-published a novella in fourth grade). She also loves children and works with the them at shul every Shabbat morning—and also babysits several times a week. She hopes to become a pediatrician.
Leora, congrats on being recognized as this week’s Sportstar of the Week! Who is your role model and why?
One of my role models is my dad. He is always taking care of the community, usually in a discrete way. Whenever he sees a homeless person, he will always stop and give them money. My father is the president of our shul and he always welcomes everyone and makes sure to talk to them. He often sends Shabbat meals to people in need. He also buys me a lot of Brandy sweaters.
What is your favorite sport?
My favorite sports are soccer and basketball. I’ve been playing soccer since I was 2, but recently I’ve been playing more basketball. I like both these sports because I enjoy running and being part of a team. I’m also very competitive and find that sports challenge me.
What is your pregame routine?
Before practices and games, my friends and I go to Starbucks, 16 Handles or Bagels & Co. Sometimes someone orders pizza for the whole team or we go to Saba’s Pizza. Although it’s probably not the smartest idea to eat a ton before the game, it became a routine.
What is your greatest sports accomplishment?
One of my greatest sports accomplishments was learning how to do a drop in aerial silks. I was too scared to do it for a couple weeks and then eventually I just did it. Another great accomplishment I had was scoring four goals in one of my soccer games.
Who is your favorite athlete and why?
Zach Lavine (a basketball player on the Chicago Bulls) is my favorite athlete. First, my mom is from Chicago so I always liked the Bulls. But also I like how Zach Lavine plays; he has great teamwork and will always pass the ball, but is also an insane player.
What is your favorite sports memory?
During COVID, I missed two basketball seasons so I was really excited for the season to start in seventh grade. My favorite memory is probably the bus ride to our first game. I was so excited and loved talking to my friends and coaches on the way there.
What is your earliest sports memory?
My earliest sports memory is probably my Super Soccer Stars class when I was two. I don’t really remember much considering I was 2, but I do remember the gray Super Soccer Stars ball and kicking it into the net.
What is your favorite thing to do when you are not playing sports?
When I’m not playing sports my favorite things to do are to read (realistic and historical fiction), write (creative writing), play with little kids (I babysit and work with groups at shul), and watch sports (NBA). I also love shopping at Brandy, Pacsun, Urban Outfitters, Zara and more. A daily habit of mine is going to Playa Bowls and spending $15 on one bowl. This is why I have no babysitting money left.
What is the best thing about being a Sportstar?
My favorite thing about playing sports is being on a team. I love the social aspect and playing with my friends. I also like how it keeps me busy so I always have something to do.
The Humble Toast Sportstar of the week will receive a $25 gift card at the Humble Toast. Please send nominees for an upcoming Humble Toast Jewish Link Sportstar of the Week to [email protected]