A football fable

The story of my dad and a Tel Aviv legend.

hilly and dolores linde 248 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
hilly and dolores linde 248 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
April 19, 2009. It's a warm spring day, and after braving the Sunday morning traffic from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, I am now sipping coffee at a Dizengoff Street cafe, watching the world go by as the city celebrates its 100th birthday. This is one of my favorite pastimes, for which I rarely have the time, but it's not why I'm here. I have arranged to meet a Tel Aviv legend: Yehoshua (Shiye) Glazer. Born in Tel Aviv in 1927, Glazer became the epitome of the local soccer star who stayed at home - although he had opportunities to leave. He spent his entire career at Maccabi Tel Aviv from 1945 to 1962, becoming its star in the 1950s, when the team won the league title five times in eight years. The club, by the way, was established at Meir Dizengoff's house in 1906 (it was initially called Maccabi Harishon Letzion), but after the city of Tel Aviv was founded in 1909, it changed its name to Maccabi Tel Aviv. Shiye (pronounced like the Islamic "Shia") held the record for the most goals scored for the club (134) until 2002, when Avi Nimni broke it (Nimni, the current manager of the team, reached 174 goals before retiring.) Glazer also played 35 international games for Israel, scoring 18 goals, giving him the highest goal average of any Israeli international to date. IT'S one of those games that interests me. Exactly 55 years ago, Shiye was a member of the Israeli squad that toured southern Africa for almost a month. It was by all accounts a successful tour by one of Israel's greatest lineups ever. (The team included world-class 'keeper Ya'akov Hodorov and stars such as Eli Fuchs, Yossi Mirmovitch and Asher Blut). Early in the tour, Israel fought back from a deficit against one of South Africa's top teams, Southern Transvaal, to win 7-4, with Glazer scoring an incredible five goals. American Jewish entertainer Danny Kaye symbolically kicked off Israel's match against a white South African team on May 1, 1954 - apartheid had begun just six years before - after engaging in a short dialogue with Shiye in Yiddish. In front of 22,000 fans at the Rand Stadium in Johannesburg, Wally Warren made the home crowd happy by scoring after 40 minutes. Two minutes later, Glazer equalized for Israel, triggering a roar of support from the crowd in the "Blacks Only" stands. In the 53rd minute, though, Hodorov let in a goal from Arthur Roos to give the hosts a 2-1 victory. Toward the end of the tour, Moshe (Jerry) Beit-Halevi's Israeli team travelled to Salisbury for a game against Southern Rhodesia (or, in modern geographical terms, Harare, Zimbabwe - my birthplace). IT WAS May 5, 1954. My father, Hilyer (Hilly) Linde, was the only Jew on the Rhodesian team, and he had met Glazer and most of the Israeli players a year earlier when he represented South Africa at the 4th Maccabiah. It was my dad's first trip to the young Jewish state, and he had a ball. But in the men's soccer final (women's soccer was introduced at the Games that year), Israel crushed South Africa 4-nil. My father's father, Harry Linde, had also played soccer for Rhodesia, and a photograph of them in their blazers had appeared in one of the Rhodesian papers. (Harry was quite the sportsman, starting off as a teen bantamweight boxing champion in the Transvaal Scottish Regiment and ending up a golf professional at Randfontein in Johannesburg with a plus-3 handicap.) But back to the Rayton Ground in Salisbury, where Hilly had been selected to play right wing, and by his own account was not enjoying a particularly good match. 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 levelled the game for Rhodesia. A short time later, my dad - who was standing some 40 yards from the Israeli goal - experienced what was to become his moment in history. "As fate would have it, the ball came to me on the right wing," he says, modestly, "and while trying to center it, the ball screwed off my foot, and spun towards the Israeli goal. 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." 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 Israel in its second international match in southern Africa. The headline in the paper the next day read, "40-yard Lob Beat 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 13 years ago (my mom, Roseve, died in 1987), 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. Today, Dolores's son, Denis Phillips, is on the Israeli national team. It was on the bowling green that my dad met up again with the former Israeli soccer star Asher Blut, who played for Ramat Gan. They hadn't seen each other for more than 50 years. BACK at the cafe on Dizengoff, it seems like half a century passes as I wait for Shiye. I have brought him the photograph of Hilly and Harry Linde, on which my dad has written the following note: "Shiye, I often think about the days I played against Israel. You were always the STAR - and I have fond memories of you. I wish you well and good health and hope to meet you again one day." I have also brought a picture of Hilly and Dolores after winning the bowls titles, and a souvenir program of the Israeli game against Southern Rhodesia, with a photograph of Glazer and the other Israeli players inside. But after three hours, Shiye is still a no-show. I am surrounded by a dozen elderly men - his mates - who assure me that he will arrive, eventually. "He comes here every day," one says. "There's no such thing as him not coming." One man offers me NIS 1,000 for what he promises is "an incredible story" about Shiye. I tell him I'm not really here for a scoop. After four hours, I call Shiye's cellphone. He is very apologetic, telling me he wasn't feeling well, and went to the doctor. "Please come on Tuesday," he pleads. "But Tuesday is Yom Hashoah," I say. "That's okay," he replies. "I'll be there." I HAVE spoken to Shiye about a dozen times on the phone to set up a meeting. In the last conversation, I tell him my dad doesn't feel well enough to make the trip from Netanya to Tel Aviv, but I'll come and interview him. I ask him if he remembers my father, and the game in Salisbury. "Of course," he says. "He scored the winning goal. How old is he today?" "Eighty," I say. "He's a youngster," Shiye replies. "I'm two years older." When he wasn't playing soccer, Shiye worked for the Egged bus company, and mostly drove the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem route, leaving Tel Aviv on his first ride at 5 a.m. and ending his last trip in time for the Maccabi training session three times a week. (When he was in South Africa, he often took over from the local bus drivers driving the team to its various destinations - he just liked being behind the wheel.) In 1950, after two impressive Israeli matches against Turkey, Maccabi stopped his transfer to Fenerbahce at the last minute by offering him shares in Egged. Glazer had been dubbed "Son of Satan" by the Turks after he scored a hat-trick in Israel's 5-1 victory at home, and both goals in the 2-3 loss in Istanbul. Glazer and his wife had packed their suitcases for Turkey, a taxi was ready to take them to the airport, and according to Turkish press reports, some 15,000 Fenerbahce fans were waiting for the Son of Satan at Istanbul Airport when Maccabi officials arrived at their Tel Aviv apartment and persuaded him to stay. AS I walk back to my car, parked near Dizengoff Center, I stop to see the Imagine/Liverpool exhibit, pausing at the picture of Billy Liddell, Liverpool's biggest star when my dad and Shiye played. But the newer photographs of its Israeli stars are much more appealing: Avi Cohen, Ronnie Rosenthal collecting the First Division cup in 1990, and finally Yossi Benayoun, who just a day later scored two goals to save Liverpool from defeat by Arsenal, one of them in the last minute, to equalize 4-4. ON TUESDAY, fighting exhaustion, heat and the Holocaust Remembrance Day mood, I drive down again to Tel Aviv and wait for a couple of hours at the cafe on Dizengoff with a photographer friend who has agreed to take pictures of Shiye. The price of the scoop on Shiye from the man in the cafe has dropped from NIS 1,000 to NIS 500, but I tell him I'm still not interested. I call Shiye. He's forgotten - again - and is very apologetic. "That's Shiye," the man in the cafe says. "Everyone gives him respect, but he respects no one." This time, on my way to the car, I visit my favorite store in Dizengoff Center - a stamp shop. The elderly proprietor, a walking encyclopedia, informs me that although football is our national sport, the Israel Philatelic Society has never deemed fit to put a photo of a soccer star on a stamp. "Perhaps they should consider a picture of Shiye Glazer," I suggest, adding quickly, "If they can ever catch him." As I drive home to Jerusalem in the traffic, I think to myself that if I am ever given the Bernard Pivot/Actor's Studio questionnaire, the profession I would not like to attempt would be a bus driver from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. (Incidentally, the profession I would have liked to attempt is professional soccer.) "If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?" "Oh, I've been expecting you. Your dad and Shiye have been waiting to talk to you." ON WEDNESDAY, as South Africa holds parliamentary elections and I am frantically working on this Independence Day supplement, Shiye calls. "I got the photograph you left me in the cafe," he says. "Sorry I wasn't here. Please give your father my regards and thank him for the picture. And wish him the best of health." "And to you," I say. I had meant to ask him a dozen questions, culminating in what he thought Israel's chances were of making it to the World Cup in South Africa next year. And if the key is victory in Basle over Switzerland on October 14, perhaps the Israeli squad will be motivated to teach the Swiss a lesson after the warm reception they gave Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Geneva? After all, wasn't that where Theodor Herzl declared the foundations for the Jewish state - even if he also happened to present a plan to settle Jews somewhere in Africa? And as Herzl said, "If you will it, then it's no legend!"