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Beach Soccer Ramat Poleg Netanya Israel, Aug 2007
photo by Rhonda Spivak

#9 on the Israeli Team Tzachi Ilos who scored a hatrick , Aug 2007
photo by Rhonda Spivak

My son Dov going to get autographs after the game, Aug 2007
photo by Rhonda Spivak

The Hotel Deutscher Kaiser where Hitler would stand out on the balcony of the first floor room when he came to Nuremberg, the city where he built the Nazi party rallying grounds
photo by Rhonda Spivak,June 2013


by Rhonda Spivak, October 3, 2013

On the train ride from Frankfurt to Nuremberg this past June, as I looked out the window to see pastoral German towns with church steeples, I had a flashback of the final game in an International Beach Soccer Competition between Israel and Germany that I watched in August 2007. It was the most amazing game (of any sport) I have ever seen and was as much about history as it was about sport.


"The Netanya Diamond Cup International Competition" took place on Friday afternoon in the heat of the summer in Ramat Poleg near the sea with a crowd of some 5000 Israelis, and was aired on Israeli TV. The impressive German team entered the game undefeated, and I had earlier watched them defeat France easily. They played with absolute precision, their passes well-coordinated, and their plays worked like clockwork. Although the Israeli team got into the finals they entered it after having already been defeated once. Everyone in the crowd thought that the Germans, many of whom were tall, blonde and blue eyed, would take the cup.


I was with my family and friends from Tel-Aviv, who had brought their children to see the game. By the third period, with only about five minutes left in the game, the Germans led 3-1. They had outplayed the Israelis, who were less organized and less precise in their kicks and passes, the entire game. Whenever the Israelis, who were all dark haired, actually managed to get a shot at the net, the German goaltender easily stopped it. The Israelis, it appeared, were a rag tag team compared to the Germans and there were some fans who began to exit the stadium figuring it was all over.


And then something happened. Number 9 on the Israeli team, Tzachi Ilos, from Netanya, ran faster than any Israeli had run all game, managed to get a breakaway and a close-up shot on net and scored. The Israeli fans went wild (even by Israeli standards, they went wild). People stopped leaving, with chants of “Tzachi Tzachi” from the crowd.  Behind me, an English speaking Israeli who originated from England began whispering, "Tie it up. Tie it up. We can't let the Germans take the damn cup. Not after what they did to us."  It was as if everyone in the crowd was thinking the same thing.



The score was now 3-2 for the Germans with less than five minutes in the game. The Israeli team began playing like a different team altogether. The Israelis were ferocious and aggressive, suddenly intercepting passes, interrupting the clockwork of the German team, screwing up their order, and running them ragged. The Israelis pulled their goaltender, pushed forward, and sure enough as the clock wore down, with every fan on their feet, Number 9, Tzachi Ilos scored again. It was a tie game. The fans went wild. The German team was stunned.  There would now be an extra overtime period until either team scored to break the tie.


We had taken Liel, a friend of my children, with us to the game and he was Shomer Shabbat (observant). Normally, he would have made it home before Shabbat without a problem, but with the extra overtime we began to wonder how we would get him home. His mother phoned to say she was on her way to get him and we should meet her outside of the stadium. But neither he nor my son, (who was 8 years old at the time) would budge. I told her there was no way I was going to get her son to leave this game early.


As the overtime period began, the Israeli from England behind me began cheering for the Israeli team, shouting, "Come on, bring us victory before Shabbos! We need victory before Shabbos! Beat the damn Germans before Shabbos!"


In the over-time period the Israelis were outplaying the Germans, buoyed by chants of the crowd and their recent goals. The sun was going down and the English Israeli turned to me to say that he had to leave to make it home before Shabbos. But he gave me his cell phone number and asked me to call him as soon as someone scored such that he'd know before Shabbos who won.


Liel's mother called to say that if I didn't get him out of the stadium now, they wouldn't make it home for Shabbos. I told her there was no way, and she'd have to use the 18 minute rule. (It's an extension you can get when you try your very best to be on time for Shabbos, but you are late for some unforeseen reason and you are given 18 minutes grace.)


Less than a minute later, Number 9, Tzachi Ilos scored his hat trick and the crowd went absolutely wild.


The game ended with the singing of Hatikvah, the Israeli National anthem, and it was one Hatikvah that has been seared into my consciousness. The crowd belted out Hatikvah with force in a way I had never witnessed before. And then it came to the line in Hatikvah where the words are "Liyot Am Hophshei  B'artzeinu" (To Be a Free People in Our Land). The crowd roared and shouted out that line with unbelievable volume. By the end of Hatikvah practically every adult around me, had a tear in their eye (I also did). It was the most emotional singing of Hatikvah I have ever experienced.


At the end of Hatikvah, my eight year old son Dov looked up at me and said, "Mom, how come everyone is crying?"  How could I explain it to him? He was too young to understand the Holocaust and about the fact that this game had turned out not to be about a sport competition, but rather about history.    


As my son surged forward to go with my husband and daughter to get their programs signed by Tzachi Ilos and the rest of the Israeli team, I ran with Liel to get to his mother in the parking lot outside the stadium. I called the English Israeli to tell him Israel had won the cup, as the sun was going down. "I knew it. I knew we'd beat those damn Germans. And we did it just before Shabbos," he said.


Liel and his mother were late for Shabbos. But only a little late.


The train pulled into the station. Nuremberg. 

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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