Irish eyes were smiling on my Israel football experience

It was all quiet on the northern front in Belfast last week. Other than a minor peaceful protest outside the Northern Ireland FA headquarters, Israel’s trip passed without incident. If anything, the positive political and sporting relationship between the nations was one of the major factors to come out of the experience.

My whistle-stop tour started with a trip to Stormont where I was introduced to some government ministers. It was then on to Bangor FC where I helped a NI Friends of Israel XI beat the official NI Supporters XI 6-4. My teammates included a Christian clergymen fluent in Hebrew, a Cambridge don who writes on the Middle East, and a member of the House of Lords.

Playing right-back, I set up one of the goals with a beautifully-flighted corner.

Then it was on to Windsor Park for the main event. After a sluggish start, Israel finished the stronger and were unlucky not to win.

Not known for his humour, manager Dror Kashtan lightened the mood at the post-match press conference. When I asked if he had advised defender Tal Ben Haim to move away from big-spending Manchester City if he continues to be ignored byMark Hughes, the Israel manager replied: “Tal’s a big boy. He can decide by himself.”

Before returning home, I took in the Tall Ships at the Belfast Maritime Festival and was taken around the circuit for the Ulster Grand Prix, labelled the world’s fastest motorcycle road race.

My travels did not end there. No sooner had I touched down in Luton, I jumped on to the Eurostar for a stag weekend in Antwerp.

Former Talksport and The Veras keeper Jon Tiller was celebrating his prenuptials in the quaint Belgium city. I saw more of Jon than I bargained for one night when he walked through the centre of town with little more than a pair of green flashing sunglasses, a Stetson and a smile on his face. That image will take some time to get out of my system, as will the fruit beer I sampled. A confidentially agreement prevents me from disclosing any other details.

As the senior statesman of the group, I did my best to ensure that the boys were on their best behaviour, while at the same time doing my best to fight off the advances of a Cindy Crawford look-a-like.

New Redbridge Jewish Care C manager Michael Winehouse was singing the praises of Ben Norris after his two-goal salvo helped the team past Division Four rivals Athletico Bilbaum in Chigwell’s first pre-season friendly.

Two Beckham-esque free-kicks from Simon Beresford plus goals from Daniel Collett and Nick Davis helped North West Neasden C beat UJS Norstar 4-2.

Glenn Michaels marked his return to Chigwell Athletic in style with a hat-trick helping them thump Brixton Old Boys 5-2. Russell Becker and Mark Conway were the other marksmen.

Goals from Saul Conway (3), Alex Rosenthal (2), Greg Corin and Ari Last saw a mixed Hendon United A and B thump North London Raiders A 7-0. Boss David Garbacz described it as a “highly encouraging win”.

The 2009/2010 Maccabi GB Tenpin Bowling League commences on September 8. Set up as a doubles handicap league, matches will be played every Tuesday night at GoBowling in Dunstable. Teams can register up to five players per squad.

Mixed teams and bowlers of all abilities are welcome. For more details, contact Matthew Plax or Paul Loberman at league@maccabibowling.com.

    Last updated: 4:00pm, August 20 2009