Football: Why earache is Semitic soccer's biggest headache

FAN'S EYE VIEW NO 240 BAR KOCHBA FC
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The Independent Online
The date: 14 April, 1974. The place: Mitcham Common. (Twenty-four Jewish lads south of the river? This is tantamount to Yasser Arafat praying at the Western Wall). The occasion: the final of The Referees' Invitation Trophy, Jewish football's premier cup competition, making the choice of the venue even more bizarre. We all came from Hendon and Edgware.

Our opponents were Athletico Neasden, the kings of Semitic soccer, unbeaten in three seasons. Until now. We beat them one-nil on penalties. The first 10 penalties were all missed - or saved - so the referee, eager as we were to get back for lunch, moved the spot forward by two feet (but to you, three). Neasden missed kick number 11, we scored the next, and I lifted the trophy, presented in a blaze of flashbulbs by a kosher butcher from Finchley.

We were Bar Kochba FC, the "ch" pronounced the Scottish way, as in och aye, named after a Jewish revolutionary who, it is rumoured, was the first Biblical character to wear moulded studs.

We played in the Maccabi Sunday League, where all teams had to be all- Jewish. Now this gave rise to a number of problems, but one in particular. Jews aren't physical, we argue. You get no real injuries in Jewish football - just earache. So what we did was this. We signed a ringer, a hard man, a non-Jew, a player who was not only a cut above ability-wise, but one who could put himself about a bit. In a team of Hoddles we wanted a Hunter (that's Norman, not Hillman). Our ringer was Stevie Prince. No one knows for sure why he wanted to play for us. We were to football what Woody Allen is to baby-sitting. But I do know he liked the name Bar Kochba. He thought it was a pub in Poland.

Stevie Prince - or Sheldon Pinkus, the name adopted for registration - was a great asset. But he did have to be ever so circumspect in the changing-room when the other team were about, him being the odd man out in an otherwise foreskin-free zone.

Most of our team were estate agents - that's just the way it worked out - so we knew how to pick a home ground. No Hackney Marshes for us; even Wormwood Scrubs became passe once we made our move to Hampstead Heath Extension, a particularly Jewish area of north London. (It would be. Who but a Jew would take a place like Hampstead Heath and add an extension?)

It was a pleasure to get sent off on the Extension, if only to have a little more time to admire the ornate mansions - one of which was home to Elizabeth Taylor - that abutted our hallowed turf. Once, the referee, senior partner at the firm of surveyors where I did my articles, sent me off for arguing with him over the value of a house that backed on to our pitch. Only in Jewish football!

Bar Kochba exist today only as a memory. I still see many of the lads; some of them I play five-a-side with, and Radlett Ralph I meet across the tennis net down at the David Lloyd. But not Stevie. So Stevie, if you're reading this, and you need a flying winger ringer for your goyische team, call me. I'm no Ryan Giggs, but God knows I can talk the opposition into near terminal somnolence. And what's more, my mum still makes a mean salt beef sandwich!

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