Football fake confesses: we were all at it
Telling all: Mariusz Mielniczuk as he appeared in the JC
An amateur footballer caught up in the scandal over players' identities has revealed how he and his teammates knew they would be caught and expelled from a Jewish league.
Striker Mariusz Mielniczuk and his MSFL side, Holy Mount Zion, made headlines around the world last month after the JC revealed the team had been suspended for fielding non-Jewish players under fake names.
It came to light after Mr Mielniczuk posted pictures of himself from the newspaper on Facebook - using his real name.
Team manager Rob Lerner originally denied selecting non-Jewish players, but later admitted that the club had cheated. Holy Mount Zion resigned from the league last week.
Opponents all knew my name. They all knew who I was. But this is the 21st century. Everyone should be able to play anywhere
Mr Mielniczuk, a 35-year-old personal trainer, was on holiday in Cuba when the news broke. This week he revealed he had already decided to stop playing because he "felt bad about the situation". He also claims other teams field non-Jews.
He said: "I'm not Jewish. We knew what the rules were. We knew it would catch up with us. The MSFL had the right to throw us out because rules are rules, but I don't think the rules are good. I'm very disappointed."
Mr Mielniczuk grew up in the Polish town of Chelm, which according to Jewish legend, was inhabited by fools, before he moved to London.
"I lived in a community where once 70 per cent of the people were Jewish. I was raised to treat all people the same whoever they are.
"You are supposed to enjoy football. All the teams are full of brilliant guys. But I don't believe there is one team in the league that is 100 per cent Jewish players.
"I knew what was going to happen, so I'm not surprised. We knew one team was setting out to have us thrown out of the league. I'm pretty sad at the way it all came out like that in the JC."
Mr Mielniczuk said he met Mr Lerner at the central London gym where he works. The pair talked about football and Mr Lerner invited him to join the team.
He does not regret playing in the league, but admits the time was right for the truth to come out.
"I decided for myself to stop playing for Holy Mount Zion. I told the guys it was my last game [against Faithfold in January] because I was feeling bad about the situation.
"The opponents knew my name. They all knew who I was. I really enjoyed playing with them and spending time with the other teams. Now I don't know what to do with my Sunday mornings.
"We had already registered in a different league for September because we knew we would be leaving the MSFL.
"We are just sad because we would have liked to finish the season. They could have let us play just for the sake of football.
"It's the 21st century and I don't think the rules are good. I respect them, but I don't like them. We should all get along together.
"Football is the beautiful game. Everyone should be able to play everywhere."