My father, Hilyer Samuel
Linde (7/8/28 - 22/4/13), was a great sportsman and a wonderful poet. He loved
most sports and was very serious about following rules and etiquette, but he
firmly believed in winning and losing graciously and with aplomb, accompanied by
humor and a smile.
Ultimately, a game was just a game, and the idea was
to have fun. It was how you played the game that mattered, and not the result.
When I was training to be an athlete at Carmel College in Durban, South Africa,
he wrote me a poem (with apologies to Rudyard Kipling) that nicely expressed his
strong sense of sportsmanship. Here is an extract:
When the dreams you dream do
And someone else receives that precious prize,
My heart hurts
for you my son
When your sights are set to conquer all
And before the winning
post you fall,
My heart hurts for you, my son
When you train and suffer to make
But in the selectors' eyes you remain unseen,
My heart hurts for you,
When your whole world collapses at your feet
And your brave smile
shows-not your defeat complete,
My heart hurts for you, my son
But when you're
flat upon the floor
And you dust yourself down and come up for more,
BURSTS for you, my son!
Hilly Linde, as my dad became known, was born in
Johannesburg to Harry and Ada Linde. His dad, who was born in Lithuania, joined
the British Army as a teenager and became bantamweight boxing champion in the
Transvaal Scottish Regiment during World War I, played soccer for Southern
Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in 1922-23 and ended up as a golf professional at
Randfontein in Johannesburg with a plus-3 handicap.
Hilly followed in
Harry's footsteps, becoming an accomplished athlete, rugby and soccer player. In
1953 - exactly 60 years ago - he was selected to play for South Africa at the
Fourth Maccabiah. He loved every minute of his trip to the fledgling Jewish
state, making fast friends with the Israeli players who included such legends as
Ya'akov Hodorov, Yehoshua (Shiye) Glazer, Eli Fuchs, Yossi Mirmovitch and Asher
Blut. But in the men's soccer final (women's soccer was introduced at the Games
that year), Israel crushed South Africa 4-nil. Still, the South African team
returned home proudly with a silver medal. Hilly's 30 seconds of fame came a
year later when the Israeli team toured Southern Africa. By then, he had moved
to Salisbury (now Harare) and, like his father, was selected as the only Jew in
the Rhodesian team.
It was May 5, 1954. The match took place at the
Rayton Ground in Salisbury. Hilly Linde had been selected to play right wing,
and by his own account was not enjoying a particularly good game. The referee
disallowed a goal by Glazer in the 55th minute, but a minute later Shiye passed
the ball to Mirmovitch, who put Israel one up. A header from Roy Coop in the
70th minute leveled the game for Rhodesia. A short time later, my dad - who was
a long way from the Israeli goal - experienced what was to become his moment of
“As fate would have it, the ball came to me on the right wing, and
while trying to center it, the ball screwed off my foot, and spun towards the
Israeli goal,” he once told me, modestly. “The goalkeeper came off his line to
collect the ball, and much to his embarrassment, the ball went over his head and
into the net. The highlight of my career was scoring the winning goal in that
international against Israel.”
Linde had given Southern Rhodesia its
first international victory. But, as the only Jew in the Rhodesian side, he also
had the dubious honor of vanquishing a world-class team representing the Jewish
state. The headline in the paper the next day read, “40-yard Lob Beats Israel.”
He felt a hero and a villain at the same time, hailed by the Rhodesian fans but
mocked by his Israeli friends as an “anti-Semite.”
My dad and his wife,
Dolores, made aliya in 1997 and settled in Netanya. After excelling in lawn
bowls in South Africa, they started to play at Wingate, and in 2002 had the rare
distinction of winning the Israeli veteran men's and women's singles titles, as
well as the mixed pairs competition.It was on the bowling green that my dad who
was a member of the Netanya Bowling Club met up again with former Israeli soccer
star Asher Blut, who played for Ramat Gan. They hadn't seen each other for more
than 50 years! Hilly later moved from playing to coaching bowls, including to
blind bowlers who called him “Hillel” (his Hebrew name). Dolores won two medals
for bowls in the 2005 Maccabiah; her son, Denis Phillips, won four medals for
bowls in the 2009 Maccabiah.
After a lengthy illness, my father died at
home in Netanya in April at the age of 84. About a year before his death, he
penned his last poem, which I read out at his funeral. Here is an extract:
Israel, my Israel
You sheltered me, with no strings attached.
cordiality was indeed unmatched.
A Semitic son from the Diaspora
home to be with my "mishpocha."
Your Law of Return
Assured my stay
ambiance that day by day
Endorsed my resolve to rearrange
My past environment
with a brand new change.
My gratitude knows no bounds
And I revel in the
sights and sounds
Of a vibrant nation, a true sensation!
I welcome all
participants of the 19th Maccabiah in the spirit of my father¹s sportsmanship
and love for Israel. We may support different teams, but we're all on the same
side. As Abba Hillel would have said, “Play fairly, do your best, but most of
all, enjoy yourselves!"
The writer is the editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post.