Euro squad is the strongest yet, but is it missing the point?
Ben Winston's European Maccabi Games squad is very strong. Of that there is no doubt. Too strong? Quite possibly. Maccabiah standard, some might say. But as is often the case, there is an argument that this competition should be for boys who ply their trade in the Maccabi League, both north and south, week in, week out. Otherwise, the usual suspects will continue to be selected for the big competitions.
Winston finds himself caught somewhere between a rock and a hard place. He must combine bringing in new faces with putting out his strongest possible squad. I'd be hard-pressed to find a stronger squad give or take a player.
Many would say that the criteria is all wrong. Here's a little insight as to how it all works. First, Winston and his management team go through a rigorous trial process in a bid to ensure that every corner has been covered and that the top players have been watched. Once selected, the players must be able to cover their costs, somewhere in the region of £1,750, which includes transport, accommodation and food, plus spending money. It's a crying shame if those good enough cannot afford it.
In this kind of situation, it is unfair to judge the group before a ball has been kicked. But it's clear that Winston has selected the boys he believes will represent their country to the best of their ability, on and off the pitch, although the decision to open registration rules to London Lions' Saturday team has not pleased everyone.
One thing is for sure. The squad's preparations will be spot on with a big name coach - following in the footsteps of 2009 Maccabiah coach Les Reed - to be announced in the coming weeks. Added to that, with friends such as David Beckham and James Corden, there are sure to be one or two surprises along the way. Winston, Becks and Corden were recently snapped having lunch by photographer Alex Taylor, who coincidentally plays for Faithfold. Winston told me that he hopes Corden will host a European Maccabi Games fund-raiser for the Open Football squad in March.
● I've lost count of the number of times I've heard the phrase 'that would never happen in Jewish football'. Well … it did. The events surrounding the abandoned Maccabi Masters match appear unreal. And it came just two weeks after Stuart Lustigman, chairman of the Masters League, warned teams about their behaviour following some unsavoury incidents this season. He said: "I'm disappointed to note an increase in the number of violent incidents. It is inconceivable that one player should strike another and here again, I am instructing referees to strictly apply the letter of the law and send off the offending players and submit a report to the London FA."
● Although London Maccabi Vale and MAL enjoyed the lions share of headlines during the cricket season, it's clear tthe future is bright for Chigwell & Hainault CC. Their end of season awards reflected on the progress made by some of their younger players. Michael Myers had a breakthrough year, becoming a key member of the side with his spin bowling, while vice-captain Matt Murray also came of age with consistent runs at the top of the order. Alex Katseph was also commended.