The Maccabi League should be the last place to play race card

Lessons must be learnt from the unsavoury incident that took place in the Maccabi League match between Montana Boca United A and Glenthorne United A (see right).

What appeared to have started out as “football banter” escalated to an unacceptable level and although Glenthorne manager Ian Cohen dealt with the situation swiftly, the league must ensure that there is no repeat of something that could be picked up by the national press.

You know and I know that there is no place for racism in football, let alone society. What happened was unfortunate and having discussed the matter at length with Cohen, I can say he was genuinely taken aback by the serious nature of the complaint and he acted promptly and responsibility.

Since taking charge a couple of seasons ago, Cohen has helped turn their fortunes around and I was not surprised that he got to the bottom of this awful situation within 24 hours.

He said: “I would like to think I have turned a lemon into a lemonade. We are all Jewish boys playing together and if we cannot understand this ourselves then what will the outside world think?” I believe that the club has a bright future and Cohen is a big part of it.

It is clear to me that he has the respect of his players and I believe he has made an example by removing the culprit from the club with immediate effect.

In my early days in Jewish media, I witnessed ugly scenes when Brady Maccabi played the predominantly Israeli Golders Green team. A spitting incident led to a heated exchange in which members of the Brady squad verbally abused Golders because of where they came from.

Another incident saw former Real MAL striker Adam Mammon called a name based on the colour of his skin, although on the whole it is fair to say that incidents of this nature are thankfully few and far between and camaraderie between rival teams is good.

Now is the time to draw a line as players need to realise that racism is not football banter. The whole episode disgusts me and as Cohen said, “if we have such problems within Jewish football then what chance have we got?”

Now is the time for the authorities to take a stand to ensure that players know that a repeat performance will not be tolerated.

Having worked closely with Liverpool legend John Barnes on the issue, I am keen to play a part in the project going forward.

I am also in the process of getting involved in a new group called Tackling Antisemitism in Sport as I feel that with race hate and antisemitic attacks at a high level, my years of experience and knowledge covering various sports can help improve the situation and increase awareness.

Last Sunday, there was a potential flashpoint in the match I was reporting on between North West Neasden A and Chigwell Athletic A. Chigwell were denied a last-minute penalty that could have taken the game to extra time. Admittedly they were broiges with the referee but it was all hugs and kisses at the final whistle as they knew that Neasden were not to blame.

Sunday will be an emotional day for Southgate Harmen A striker Paul Stein who is hanging up his boots. The son of Paul Gascoigne’s former agent Mel, the former Kinnor, Spec and Oakwood marksman goes into early retirement after becoming a father.

There is an intriguing contest in store when Faithfold C meet Red Sea in Division Two at Chase Lodge. A Red Sea win would clinch second spot while Faithfold must win to stay up.

Sincere condolences go out to Stuart Lustigman following the passing of his mother.

Last updated: 11:51am, April 16 2009