AS FAR AS disappointments with the Israeli national football team go, this was up there with the best of them. Needing to beat Cyprus in Jerusalem to keep alive their hopes of a third-place group finish and play-off tie, those dreams were extinguished in shocking, if not spectacular style. Cyprus had never won a competitive game in Israel, well they have now and with it went Israel’s best opportunity of qualifying for a major football tournament for the first time in 46 years. Why do they consistently fail? Why is the tale of their team one of disappointment after disappointment? First and foremost, to be brutally honest, they’re just not that good enough. However, quality isn’t everything. If Northern Ireland, Albania and Iceland can reach France, there’s no reason why this Israel team, an experienced one with players who play in top European Leagues, and top sides, couldn’t at least have finished third in their group. It’s been a long, arduous wait to qualify for a tournament, and having failed so dismally in this latest campaign, you can’t see when that wait is going to come to an end. Their (relative )success on the international field was back in the days when they were part of the Asian Confederation though Arab countries soon put a stop to that. Right now, there’s more chance of them being welcomed back there than there is of seeing them at a World Cup or European Championships anytime soon.
IT MAY NOT have been The Battle of Hadley (google Ken Aston Santiago to get the reference), but Sunday’s Premier Division match between Hendon United A and Harmen was certainly a tasty encounter. Not a game for shrinking violets, it’s fair to say Hendon weren’t best pleased with what they perceived to be an overtly physical approach from Harmen, and there were times in the first half when it threatened to boil over. While not wishing to see either sending-offs or players carried off, what was great to see was a burning passion from both sides to win, something which showed that Jewish football is still alive and kicking.