AFTER VISITNG Israel as a member of the South African soccer team for the 19th Maccabiah Games in 2013, Darren Lurie moved to the Holy Land in June and is playing in the National League for Hapoel Afula on a free transfer.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
One of the most intriguing signings in the National League this summer was of 24-year-old South African Darren Lurie.
His move to Hapoel Afula FC has propelled his career, with Lurie already scoring on his league debut, a 3-3 draw with Hapoel Katamon.
He started playing soccer at the age of five at Balfour Park FC in Johannesburg, South Africa.
His first professional contract was with Moroka Swallows.
From Swallows Lurie moved to Mpumalanga Black Aces where he really started to flourish in South African soccer.
Growing up he attended school at King David Linksfield in Johannesburg, the biggest Jewish day school in the Southern Hemisphere. He grew up in a supportive environment, surrounded and supported by good friends and family throughout his many trying times on and off the pitch.
Yet it was Lurie’s persistence that got him to where he is today.
“Football is like kicking a wall down,” he told The Jerusalem Post
. “Sometimes you kick the wall at a certain place and you even break your foot. The secret is to keep kicking and at times kicking at different places. In the end the wall goes down.”
Lurie was in talks with his South African agent Glyn Binkin about moving abroad to get more experience and exposure to the game, looking at options of playing soccer in either Denmark or the United States, when the option of Israel came into talks.
After playing for South Africa at the 2013 Maccabiah, Lurie was immediately excited about a move to Israel. He is the grandson of a Lithuanian Holocaust survivor and his strong Jewish identity makes Israel feel like “home” and he feels very connected to the country.
Lurie says “the differences between South African football and the Israeli game is that the game in South Africa is more skillful, whereas the game in Israel is more tactics-based and more physical.”
He also said “the heat is another challenging element in Israel.”
Despite all the differences, he “sees the challenges as exciting and I’m all about new goals.”
On July 22, alongside his Israeli agent Nir Karin, Lurie signed his first Israeli soccer contract with Hapoel Afula.
“I have been lucky with my new start in Afula,” he said.
“The support structure from Hapoel Afula has been incredible; from the owners to management and coaches as well as my fellow team mates. If you’re happy off the pitch you’re going to be happy on the pitch.”
On the pitch Lurie has let his feet do the talking. Playing in two Toto Cup games before the season began and then debuting in the first game of the season in the National League, Israeli soccer’s second professional division, in which he scored the first goal of the game.
Lurie has a lot of aspirations upon the start of the new season.
He hopes to build more team cohesion as well as to score as many goals as possible.
When asked about language barriers Lurie replied “football is one language. It doesn’t matter where you come from and what language you speak. It’s a part of the beauty of the game.”
When it does come to technical talk and discussing different tactics his teammates have helped him with translating, including his captain Shlomi Hanuka.
Lurie is taking his new opportunity in Israel with both hands and both feet. He sees his current form as a stepping stone to even greater things in the future.
He does everything with a sense of appreciation.
“Remembering where I started and all the people who have helped me to get to where I am is extremely important,” said Lurie. “The most important thing is to thank God for everything he has given me. Without that you have nothing.”