Such joy to represent Israel - even though the Germans won

MATT: Proud to wear the blue of Israel

By Matt Keston, Academic Affairs Officer at the Israel embassy in London

DIPLOMATS from the Israeli embassy and their counterparts at the German embassy in London - including the ambassadors of both countries - took part in a friendly football match on May 12.

The game was part of the activities which will take place throughout the year to commemorate 50 years since the start of diplomatic relations between the two countries (May 12, 1965, is the exact date diplomatic relations were agreed on).

The event took place at Perks Field near Kensington Palace.

Commenting on the match, Ambassador Daniel Taub said: "The relationship between our countries has been a long journey.

"Whether through dialogue, trade or, as here, through football, we are committed to continuing this journey together."

The ambassador of Germany, Peter Ammon, said: "While the past shall never be forgotten, German-Israeli relations today are unparalleled in their diversity and built on mutual trust."

Speaking as a local British employee at the Israeli embassy, it was an honour to pull on the famous blue shirt of Israel and represent the country in a sporting contest.

Not only was I representing Israel but, as an Englishman, to get the chance to play against the official German team was something quite special!

In the famous words of Gary Lineker: "Football is a simple game. Twenty-two men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win."

Having been to the World Cup in Brazil in the summer of 2014, I was under no illusions that the task that lay ahead was daunting, to say the least.

Not only were we playing the world champions, but every single member of the embassy - as well as friends and family - was there to watch our performance.

While no one expected a miracle against an embassy twice the size of the Israeli one, there was a belief and unique camaraderie among the Israelis that this could be another David-and-Goliath-style triumph of epic proportions.

We were greeted with a beautiful sunny day, which led to the eager supporters taking in some sunshine while spectating.

After an inspirational team talk by our captain and mentor Yossi Alfassy, we were in the right mindset to face our Teutonic challengers.

The ambassador kicked us off with a sporting forward pass to the German ambassador, and the game was underway.

We burst out of the blocks, hustling for every ball, and reaped a just reward by taking the lead within the first 10 minutes.

Our dream of winning looked to be becoming a reality for all of 10 seconds, as they scored immediately from the kick-off by shooting from the half-way line, with true German efficiency.

It was 1-1 and the game was in the balance, but the first half was full of excitement, hefty challenges, chanting and lots of goals.

The half ended 4-3 to the Germans, and we were still in the game - unlike the Brazilians during the semi-final of the World Cup last year.

Germany's No 24 excelled, masterminding four of

the eventual five German goals.

Despite the Israelis having the Germans pinned inside their own half, the net would ripple only once again. Sadly, it was for the Germans.

The game ended 5-3 to Germany, and although defeat was a bitter pill to swallow - and what seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity had been missed - to wear the shirt alone was more of an honour than I could ever have hoped for.

Hopefully, I will still be running in 50 years' time to play in the centenary match and celebrate 100 years of diplomatic relations with Germany.


© 2017 Jewish Telegraph