I did not realise there were so many Jews in the world

On July 1, I set out on my second Maccabiah adventure. It was an early flight so we were up all night in anticipation of what was to come.


The first few days of the trip were the foundation on what would be a memorable experience. We visited one of the sports centres in which injured soldiers use for their rehabilitation.

The aim of the pre-camp was to give us a sense of how to overcome adversity and after the visit to the sports rehab centre we helped coached a group of Arab school children to play football. This was a challenge in itself as we faced the problem of a language barrier. The pre-camp was a real high of the 18 day trip in Israel and it taught me a lot of vital life skills.

Our first game was against the host nation, Israel, it was always going to tough due to the amount of people that were available for them to select. We found out that they fielded their national under-19 team, but we achieved something special in that match.

With 30 seconds to go we were leading 2-1 but conceded a sloppy goal to draw the game. On a personal level, I was delighted with my man-of-the-match award and I received credits for my performance from many people including a scout from an Israeli Premier Division team. This, however was costly.

Going into our second game against Spain, I had been resting up after my performance against Israel. I had been up and down, making save after save and this was costly as I was unable to recover in time for the Spain game. I started the game, but by half-time and with the team 2-1 down, I had to come off. The game finished 6-1 to Spain in a score that was a reverse of our scoreline against the same opposition in the European Games in Berlin. This was demoralising and one of the real lows of the Games.

I was then told I could not play in the next game against Argentina as I had not recovered from the injury I had previously picked up. They beat us 3-0 in what was a valiant effort put up by my team.

We then had a three-day break in which I was able to recover for the next game against Gibraltar. We beat them 13-7 in a game we should have won by a more convincing scoreline. This left us needing six points from the final two games to stand a chance of getting a medal.

The day after the Gibraltar game we faced Mexico who were top of the table but we knew we stood a chance. The game was so one sided in the first half, we had chance after chance but found ourselves 1-0 down at the break. Our coaches, Laurence Myers and Scott Warren, lectured us on how to come out of the game with a win but it wasn't enough. We kept up the performance but could take our chances and lost 2-1 which sent us of the competition.

Our final game against Brazil was a chance for us to enjoy ourselves on the court and we did, although we lost 3-1. We put in a great effort against the team that won the tournament.

This was my second Maccabiah games after I took part, and won gold, in Berlin in 2015. The standard of this games was incomparable to the standard of Berlin. 

Throughout the tournament we had many parties and took part in many activities to meet Jews from 79 other countries. This was a shock to me as I did not realise there are so many Jews in the world! 

I will definitely look to trial for the next Games but I feel I may take part in the football event rather than futsal after viewing the Open Football final between GB and USA which was a spectacular affair.

James Harpin played in goal for Team Maccabi GB juniors at the 20th Maccabiah Games in Israel

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