As I celebrate my seven-year anniversary at the JC, I’d like to reflect on some highlights, and there’s been quite a few.
I joined the paper just a couple of months after becoming a father for the second time, fresh from helping Team GB win cricket bronze at the 18th Maccabiah Games in Israel.
Four years later I covered the next Jewish Olympics with my reporting hat on - a tiring yet extremely rewarding experience. Within hours of hitting terra firma, I was interviewing Sir Bobby Charlton at the Wingate Institute and I recall liveblogging from the Men’s Open football final when British hearts were broken in the penalty shoot-out against Argentina in Haifa. There were also incredible scenes when athletics star Richard Goodman brought home double gold and it’s hard to believe the next one is less than a year away. I’m hearing there are some really big names lined-up across the board.
The tears of pain turned to ecstasy for GB’s footballers two years later at the European Maccabi Games in Vienna as, under Ben Winston, they brought home the gold.
I've seen Jewish FA chairmen come and go, Israeli Premiership stars and a manager succeed and flop, and only a couple of months ago, I attended my first Olympics and Paralympics - a real rollercoaster of emotions.
That is just the tip of the iceberg.
Over the past few years, we’ve seen numbers drop in Maccabi football. Not so long ago the league was thriving, with 65 teams in the MSFL. But now there are only 46. The league has its critics, but it continues to play an important role in the community for many and while the demand is there, the die-hard band of volunteers will give the players what they want.
But long-standing league chairman David Wolff has some concerns that not everyone is playing ball. He said: "We live in a diminishing community and it is important to ensure that we play a part in retaining our identity. I am sure that there are some non-Jews registered in the league and I would say to anyone who is doing this knowingly, to examine their consciences and stop immediately."
On the downside, a recurring theme has been covering the topic of antisemitism in football. The last two weekends have featured foul-mouthed outbursts from opponents north and south. They really should know better and as I’ve said time and again, this is an area that really must be focused upon.
* Following their recent disciplinary problems, I must congratulate Temple Fortune for introducing a new radical policy to reduce dissent. Players will now receive a one-match internal ban for a first offence and a two-match ban for second and subsequent offence. Fortune chairman Nigel Kyte told me: "I intend to restore our reputation as being one of the top clubs in terms of organisation, fair play and what we stand for as a proud club in Maccabi football."
* Quote of the week goes to Brady Maccabi B’s Josh Dagul. The midfielder scored two rare headers in the 7-1 win over Catford & Bromley. "My team were in disbelief when I scored my headers. I think they’d have expected to see Messi score a header for Brady before me!"