North London rivalries were set aside as staff from the Tottenham Hotspur Foundation delivered a reminiscence project for Jewish Care clients.
Arranged through the Sporting Memories organisation, the programme was based at the charity’s Betty and Asher Loftus Centre in Friern Barnet, which incorporates three care homes.
Sessions began with a project leader sharing his own childhood memories of attending games at White Hart Lane.
This prompted contributions from residents including passionate Arsenal fan Alex Mitchell, who recalled Gunners stars from a bygone era coming into his father’s clothes shop. “I used to know the players well and later with my sons we walked to the game every Saturday from my family home in Hendon.”
He had enjoyed the sessions as “it’s good to talk about sport. Sport has always been a big part of my life.”
Lawrence Silver recounted being a talented young footballer (he also played cricket and tennis).
“My father had a letter from the FA saying the scouts wanted to take me to training. That wasn’t going to happen because we were an Orthodox family and football was on Shabbat.
“So I played in the Sunday games with the Jewish clubs and was a founder member of Stamford Hill Boys’ Club.”
Dorothy Blumenthal, one of the few women participants, spoke of her early sporting life. “I had three brothers and we used to go to Victoria Park in Hackney and play there — the local council had wonderful sports equipment. I copied my brothers. I wanted to be just like them and do what they did.
“Later, we lived near the [Tottenham] training ground so we used to go and watch the Spurs first team training for free. I still enjoy watching the game.”
Gary Zimmerman, 87, who has dementia, told the group about playing cricket at Lord’s for his school, Clifton College, and taking part in a Maccabi cricket tour in Israel. He also spent many a Saturday afternoon at Highbury supporting Arsenal.
Although not a resident, Bondia, his wife of 43 years, came along to one of the Sporting Memories sessions.
“Cricket and football were always Gary’s passion and when he moved into the home, his Sky subscription moved with him,” she said.
“It’s been good to see him recall playing and watching sport with the group.
“The leaders have been great at engaging with everyone and have put a lot of effort into researching Gary’s connection with sport.”
Rob White from Sporting Memories said its programmes helped to combat loneliness and boost self-esteem.
“As we age and become less independent we don’t always have confidence in things. But we have a confidence about sport.
“Everybody had a story and everyone in the group came away feeling more connected to each other.”
Looking at old photos and film footage had also stimulated long-term memory.
Jewish Care chief executive Simon Morris added that “as a sports fan, I know sport brings people together and promotes well-being. This has certainly been the case for those who have participated in the programme at Jewish Care.”