Footballing rabbis hoping for Spur-fect day


The captain of the squad of footballing Orthodox ministers preparing to take on a team of former Spurs stars believes the challenge will bring them closer to their members.

Daniel Fine, assistant rabbi at Stanmore and Canons Park Synagogue, compared the September 11 fixture in aid of the Laniado Hospital in Israel "to the experience of some of our congregants over the High Holy-Days.

"We'll be slightly out of our comfort zone. It might feel like it's lasting longer than we thought but ultimately it will be a rewarding experience."

As one of the team's centre-backs, the Spurs fan will have the challenge of stopping the likes of Darren Anderton, Mark Falco and other Tottenham favourites he watched in his youth.

"You're supposed to say you're playing to win. But we're playing to earn some respect, first of all."

He hoped the game in north London - expected to raise £40,000 for the Netanya hospital - would "show rabbis can work together. It's also a nice way to break down barriers, especially as our communities will see us somewhere apart from in synagogue."

A key midfielder will be Alex Nadler, a former academy player for Shrewsbury, Oldham and Rochdale - and until recently, assistant minister at South Manchester Synagogue. He said the match presented "an unbelievable opportunity.

"I'm sure some of us are quite anxious about playing against footballers who have been at the top level but it's very exciting. I can't wait."

Having given up a fledgling football career to enter King David High School's sixth form, he has only once regretted the decision.

"Four or five years after I left Oldham, they played Liverpool at home in the FA Cup and beat them 3-2." The match was televised and Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez were among the Liverpool side.

"But becoming frum, going to yeshivah, getting married and having kids - that was all OK too," he added, laughing. "I'm happy with how things have gone since." Mr Nadler said that being seen as the star player was "added pressure. I don't like letting people down. I'll have to wrap myself in cotton wool over the next couple of weeks.

"A 3-1 win for the rabbis team would be nice - with a hat-trick for myself."

Rabbi Ben Kurzer is another Tottenham fan looking forward to taking on his heroes. The Edgware Synagogue assistant minister has "always wanted to play against Spurs players and Laniado is a very good hospital that supports people from all over and doesn't discriminate, which is important".

As for how the rabbis would perform, "I don't think most people's expectations are too high, so not much is at stake".

For Rabbi Doron Birnbaum of Hasmonean High School - another lifelong Spurs fan - the chance to take to the pitch with players he had idolised was "amazing. And to support such a wonderful charity in the process and provide a fun day out for the entire community -that's priceless."

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