WHILE THERE’S excitement ahead of the start of next weekend’s 15th season of Maccabi Masters football, the big kick-off has been thrown into disarray following the withdrawal of last season’s division one champions Glenthorne A.
Stuart Lustigman, chairman of the League, explains: “Regrettably they withdrew just three weeks before the start of the season at the point when the fixtures were already released and pitches booked. It leaves the division depleted with just five teams and has caused a mini crisis which means the management committee are now in discussions with those division one teams to try come up with an acceptable solution.
We feel we’ve been very let down by Glenthorne who left their decision to withdraw far too late.”
Glenthorne’s withdrawal means there are now 14 teams left competing in the two divisions, three less than last season. “There are no new teams and we have also lost South Mancs from division one,” Lustigman says. “Ashlodge have
amalgamated with Marshside in division two, and there has also been virtually no growth in the number of players in the league over the past few years. Although we had a record 17 teams last season, there were problems with some of them fulfilling their fixtures due to lack a of players. However, while I am disappointed, the league is there to provide masters’ football for those who wish to play, no matter the numbers.”
Despite the slight reduction of numbers, there will be a league cup for all teams and a cup specifically for teams in the second division. An additional cup competition may also be introduced for division one teams, possibly featuring teams from the men’s MGB(S)FL.
But despite his disappointment, Lustigman is still proud of the League – and more importantly, what it offers. He says: “Whatever the situation with the number of players and teams, the fact is that without masters’ football some 400 players would be either retired or restricted to small-sided games.
“While there has been no significant change in the standard of play over the last few years, both divisions were more competitive last season.
“My hope is that both divisions, once again, prove closely contested and that players enjoy the opportunity to
extend their football ‘careers’ well into their 30’s and then onwards into their 60’s. “When I founded the league 15 years ago, it was an over-40’s competition and many of the original players are still turning, with an increasing number still playing in their 60’s. In this respect the league has most certainly achieved what it set out to do and more.”
Still on the lookout for new players, how would he persuade would-be footballers to sign-up? “Taking up Masters football is not that easy for players who have been retired and want to make a comeback,” he says. “However, for those who are still active and perhaps playing in the MGB(S)FL or 5-a-side football, the MMFL is a natural progression and has the added value of playing on good surfaces and the chance for some great banter before, during and after the match. That’s
not to say that the football is not taken seriously as many matches are very competitive, especially in division one, but reunited friendships and camaraderie are high on the agenda.”
And if the offer of regular Sunday morning football isn’t enough, the league have also paid trips to Israel and South America in the past, something Lustigman hopes to reintroduce for next year. “The League’s major successes have been the seven trips to Israel as well as participation in the PanAm Maccabi Games 2007 in Argentina, while many of our
players being chosen for the Maccabiah,” he says. “While we have not toured Israel since 2011, there are hopes that we might return in 2014.
“We’re proud to be part of the Maccabi Movement and our Jewish identity is very important to the league’s existence.”
DIVISION ONE TEAMS:
Brady Maccabi A
North London Raiders A
DIVISION TWO TEAMS:
London Maccabi Lions
Brady Maccabi B
Glenthorne United A
Glenthorne United B
Temple Fortune Old Boys
St John’s Wood Tigers