By Adrian Pearl
Who can say what makes a man leave home (my flat was five minutes walk from Mecca aka Vicarage Road) to the desolate wastes of the footballing Mid-East, but in December '93 I packed my bags to seek gainful employment here in Israel. I took my leave of WFC after the Boxing day match, my one and only time in the new stand that had pushed me off my terrace spot of the past twenty years.
Israeliís love their sport, and the cable channel gives a mixture of Premiership crud, some European league matches, and the occasional big game. If you donít mind the strange tongue of the commentators thereís also Eurosport's occasional forays into football, Star Sport showing Asian soccer, SAT 1 with the Bundesliga, Spanish TV, and TV5(French) with their leagues. Plus weíve a few Arab stations with their local soccer, but I donít understand a word of Arabic and invariably have no idea who is playing and whatís going on. Makes you pine for the dulcet tones of Bob Wilson and Brian Moore.
Unfortunately there is no-one here who makes a decent beer, and having been spoilt rotten with all the real ale flowing from St.Albans, not to mention Ruddells County from The Southern Cross (that really dates me!!) the local lager could best be described as looking like gnat's urine, and probably tasting like it too.
There are a couple of big teams here and usually the honours go to the Tel Aviv, Haifa or Jerusalem teams. They have municipal stadiums and lazy toads who play for them. The best players invariably run for cover to the European leagues, leaving us with the dross.
My first port of call was just down the road from the National Stadium in Ramat Gan (like Wembley only much smaller - both the district and the Stadium!), home to Maccabi Tel Aviv. I went to watch Israel play France in a Euro 96 qualifier. Remembering the France of Platini and Papin I thought I might get some quality footie... NO. It was worse than the old third Division - maybe the sort of stuff you locals have been suffering this season. The play was devoid of imagination or forethought and a boring 0-0 was attained. Arsenal would have been proud of that result, but not me. Half way through the second half, with the winger in acres of space and no-one bothering to give him the ball I let rip with a tirade of abuse and comments only the English could understand. Alas the crowd spoke either French or Hebrew and it was totally lost on them. Couldnít even abuse the linesman as I was up in the clouds.
Having been forced to vacate my flat - located in Scud alley (thanks, Sadaam, for wrecking all the flats nearby but the one I occupied) - and just missing a bus bombing by some suicidal Arab - maybe the despair of the lack of quality got to him too - I moved up to Netanya.
They decided to get relegated to the second division, which probably is worse than the stuff I used to watch in the local Rec. on a Sunday morning. I now live about ten minutes walk from their ground, though a new one has been built on the other side of town. Donít know when weíre getting a team worth playing there though!
Still, maybe soon Iíll get to see Watford playing some quality stuff on the Sports channel instead of boring Man.Utd/Liverpool/Newcastle....(pick any team currently in the Premiership!)