Inter Aliyah, club of Olim founded by two Brits, takes on Israeli football

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Inter Aliyah, club of Olim founded by two Brits, takes on Israeli football

Friends Sam Sank and Matt Keston help run Inter Aliyah, Israel's first all-Olim sports club, who are considered among favourites to get promoted from Liga Gimmel this year

Stephen is the Jewish News' Foreign Editor

Inter Aliyah
Inter Aliyah

Two Brits who made aliyah in recent years have said they are hoping that the New Year will bring promotion for their team of Olim playing in Israeli leagues.

Friends Sam Sank from Stanmore and Matt Keston from Edgware are both involved with Inter Aliyah, Israel’s first all-Olim sports club, whose flagship team plays in the fifth tier and whose B team competes in the amateur league.

As the 2020/21 season began Sank said there was reason to hope that this would be Inter Aliyah’s season, having finished sixth place in Liga Gimmel last year and now considered one of the favourites to top the league this time around.

A new head coach who previously coached Charlton Athletic and the Israeli national team has joined, and the majority of the multinational squad have returned.

Sam Sank (second left) before a Liga Gimmel game

“Last year was our best ever finish in what was our fourth year as a club,” said left-back Sank, who co-founded Inter Aliyah. “We really feel that this season could be the one we’ve been waiting for and to finish as champions.

“I’ve seen the club grow over the years from a group of my friends playing football together to a serious team that can dominate our league. However, our story has remained the same throughout. We are building a project for Olim whereby we hope to encourage Aliyah through professional sports.

“We’ve already made quite a name for ourselves due to the unique nature of our mission and have even had the [Israeli] president hold our shirt!”

Sank, 30, made aliyah in 2009 and served in the IDF as a combat soldier before studying politics at Herzliya, and now captains the professional team, whereas Keston, 35, manages the B-team when not training to be a tour guide.

Matt Keston

Whereas Sank’s dream is for the professional team to one day make it to the top division of Israeli football, Keston said he was hoping to get over the disappointment of the season just gone.

“Last year we missed out on promotion by a single place, so this season we want to go one better,” he said. “We have a wonderful group of guys who meet twice a week to play football and because Inter Aliyah is the go-to place for Olim to play football in Israel, I have at my disposal players from all over the world.”

This season he is managing players originating from countries such as Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil, Japan, Angola, Germany, the Netherlands and the US. “It’s a bit different to the Sunday league football in north London that I’ve been used to.”

President Rivlin with an Inter Aliyah shirt!

There has been a strong English contingent in the team throughout, with Sank’s close friends Omri Elani and Martin Orson playing after serving in the IDF together. The trio got their British mates involved, including Yoni Yeruham, James Fattal, Sam Silverberg, Conor Myers, Gav Hill and Ronnie Cohen.

President of Inter Aliyah Rick Horvath-with Avigdor Lieberman

Friends off the pitch, Sank and Keston say that a large part of the British Olim community hail from London, and that most support of Tottenham Hotspur. “My home can feel like the headquarters of the Spurs Supporters Club of Tel Aviv.”

As they gather to watch Premier League matches, they will be hoping some of the Spurs magic rubs off on Inter Aliyah in 2020/21.

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