Tag Archives: Soccer

Jew of the Week: Eran Zahavi

Israel’s (and China’s) Greatest Footballer

Eran Zahavi (Photo Credit: Nir Keidar)

Eran Zahavi (b. 1987) was born in Rishon LeZion, Israel, to a French-Jewish father and Israeli mother. He began playing soccer with the Hapoel Tel Aviv club when he was just 6 years old. After completing his IDF service, he started to play for Hapoel Tel Aviv’s senior team. In the 2009-10 season, he helped lead the team to an Israel State Cup, and an Israeli Premier League championship, scoring the winning goal in the 92nd minute of the final. Two years later, he signed a five-year deal with Italian club Palermo, but transferred to Maccabi Tel Aviv half way through the contract. He became the captain during the 2015-16 season, and set an Israeli record scoring 35 goals in 36 games. The following year, he signed with Guangzhou R&F in the Chinese Super League. Zahavi quickly became a top scorer, and was nicknamed “King of Yuexiushan”. Rival team Shandong Luneng Taishan F.C. wanted him badly and offered $20 million for a trade—the most ever for an Israeli football player. In 2017, he was China’s MVP and won a Golden Boot Award. Two years later, he set a new Chinese Super League scoring record. In 2020, Zahavi returned to Europe, signing with Dutch team PSV Eindhoven. He tied the team record for goals that season. At the same time, during the 2020 Euro qualifiers, he was second only to Harry Kane in goals (and tied with Cristiano Ronaldo). In a game against Slovakia, Israel’s team was down 2-0 before Zahavi scored a hat-trick within 20 minutes, giving Israel the 3-2 win. After a couple of unfortunate incidents and attacks on his home in Amsterdam, Zahavi decided to return to Israel. A few weeks ago, he re-signed with Maccabi Tel Aviv for two years. Zahavi was Israeli Footballer of the Year twice, and is the national team’s all-time scoring leader.

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Words of the Week

This phase of existence is finite. Some people live 20 years, some people live 100 years – what’s the difference, really, from the perspective of that which transcends the infinite and the eternal? It’s equally insignificant. What is significant is what you actually do with the time that you do have.
Dr. Vladimir Zev Zelenko, ob”m

Jew of the Week: Edgar Davids

The Pitbull of Football

Edgar Steven Davids (b. 1973) was born in Suriname to an African-Surinamese father and a Dutch-Jewish mother. The family moved to the Netherlands when Davids was still a child, and the boy grew up immersed in soccer. By age 12, he signed on with Amsterdam Ajax, a team known for its “Jewish” character. (This is probably due to the team’s origins in pre-war Amsterdam, which had a huge Jewish population and was then nicknamed “Jerusalem of the West”. Today, Amsterdam is still known by the locals as “Mokum” from the Yiddish-Hebrew word meaning “place”). Davids soon led Ajex to three national championships. He also led the team to the finals in several UEFA tournaments. It was while playing for Ajax that he earned his nickname, “the Pitbull”. Davids moved to Italy in 1996 and played for AC Milan and Juventus. His greatest success was in Turin, where he led the team to multiple championships, and was described as a “one-man engine-room”. During this time, he underwent surgery on his right eye (for glaucoma from a previous injury), and henceforth wore his trademark protective glasses. In 2004, he joined Barcelona and immediately changed the team’s fortunes. The struggling club suddenly went on a hot streak, winning all but two games in the rest of the season, and going on to dominate the European football scene for a decade. Davids timely presence has been credited with this huge shift in the club’s history. Davids also played for the Dutch national team in multiple FIFA and Euro Cups, twice being named to the all-star “Team of the Tournament”. In 2002, he was chosen to be one of the stars in a Nike commercial for that year’s FIFA World Cup. The premise of the ad was a “secret tournament” for the world’s “24 elite players”. The video was hugely popular (as was its music, a remix of Elvis’ “A Little Less Conversation”). Towards the end of his career, Davids played in England for Tottenham Hotspur, famous for having a large Jewish fan-base. After a brief stint back in Ajax, he later managed London’s Barnet Football Club, representing an area that is also heavily Jewish. It seems he grew closer to his Jewish roots throughout these years, and once remarked before a big game: “Although I don’t go to synagogue, I will say a little prayer…” In 2004, Davids was ranked among the FIFA 100 World’s Greatest Living Footballers. The 2018 FIFA World Cup kicks off today.

Words of the Week

Most men worry about their own bellies, and other people’s souls, when we all ought to be worried about our own souls, and other people’s bellies.
– Rabbi Israel Salanter (1809-1883)