Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Are There Jews in the World Cup?

Many people have asked for some soccer news. Well here you go. Yuval Klein's first article! Enjoy.

Next Sunday, June 11th, will be a special day for soccer fans around the world. It marks the first game of this year’s Fifa World Cup in South Africa.
32 nations from around the world will compete for hockey supremacy. As for the Jews, we will focus on four players from the 736 different players from around the world.
Three of the Jewish players will be wearing Stars and Stripes on their chests and one will wear the famous white and blue sky stripes of Argentina.

Walter Samuel, who will play for Argentina, is a world class soccer player. Samuel (32) who plays as a central defender for the Italian team, Inter, can be considered as the best Jewish player in the world today. The tough Argentinian took a vital part in Inter's success as they won three different trophies this year, including the most important one in Europe, Champions League. Samuel fits perfectly to Inter's defensive style of play but it will be very different this summer for him as Argentina's coach and legend Diego Maradona supports an attacking game. Analysts argue that Argentina have a very good chance in going all the way especially if Leo Messi will show his amazing skills. Some might argue the best offense is a good defense. Which means Argentina's future will not be decided by Messi's legs but with Samuel's.

The most successful out of the three Jewish players in the US national team is right back, Jonathan Spector. The youngster who grew up in Illinois, signed a contract with Manchester United when he was 17. Spector played in Man Utd Youth Academy but couldn't find his way to the Sir Alex Ferguson's first team. Man Utd decided to give up Spector for around $700K, to West-Ham United from east London. In West Ham, Spector found a new home as he just finished his fourth year in the club. Although his young age, Spector already played 25 times for the US national team and it sure looks like we will see more of the great right back in South Africa.

Previously MLS Rookie of the Year (2006), Jonathan Bornstein, is already a known name around the US soccer team. Bornstein, who plays for Chivas USA in the last four years, is the best left back in the league. Bornstein started his soccer career as a striker in UCLA, and he is very likely to get the first team shirt in South Africa when the US begins play against England. In that game, he will have to use his great quickness and energy to guard England’s jet, Aaron Lennon. In 2008, Bornstein faced a dilemma as the Israeli team, Maccabi Tel Aviv, offered him a larger salary to come play in their yellow jerseys. He decided to stay playing in the MLS because of his coach Bob Bradley. I guess Bornstein made the right decision and he will wear the number 12 for the US national team this summer.

The Brazilian-born player, Benny Feilhaber, is a great central midfielder but he struggles to find his place in the European soccer leagues. After a short and unsuccessful term in England and Germany, Feilhaber found himself playing in Denmark.  US coach, Bob Bradley, acknowledges UCLA alumni’s potential, which he showed in the 2009 Confederations Cup. In that tournament the US finished second. It’s hard to tell if Feilhaber will start against England because players such as Ricardo Clark and Jose Torres had solid years as well. Let’s hope Bradley will remember Feilhaber’s fantastic performance in 2009.

Jewish players may be only a small percentage of the rest of the players in the World Cup but they are great soccer players who very likely will contribute to their nation's success. Let's hope we can double or even triple this number in Brazil 2016. Maybe even with Israel's participation. 
-Yuval Klein


  1. Nice first article, Yuval, and welcome to a cool site. Was wondering about the very issue of Jews in the WC with it right around the corner. Pretty neat the U.S. squad has 3 Jews, as I'm obviously rooting for them anyway. Walter Samuel is a very good player too. Too bad Jose Pekerman, the former Jewish manager of Argentina, isn't getting another crack at things, but maybe next time after Maradona's turn. Anybody know if there are any other well-known Jewish managers out there, besides Pekerman and Avram Grant?

  2. Thanks Ari, and for your question, I don't know any more jewish managers beside Pekerman and Grant.

  3. Hello.
    There is another jewish manager called Daniel Brailovsky. He came to Mexico as an argentinian profesional player in the early 80's and played for one of the most popular teams in Mexico: America. Then he moved to Israel where he played and coached till the late 90's. He came back to Mexico City and since took a couple of managing jobs at two profesional teams. He actualy works as a full time soccer comentator for ESPN en Español(ESPN spanish language network) and of course now you can find him transmiting from South Africa.