Not Welcome In The Arab Neighborhood

The Startelf for the “European Selection” squad pose for the team photograph just prior to the start of the Tournoi International de Paris semi-final match opposite the Olympic XI of Brazil on June 23, 1976, at the Parc des Princes in the capital city of France.

back row — KEVIN KEEGAN (England and FC Liverpool / Eng), JOE JORDAN (Scotland and Leeds United), GIORA SPIEGEL (Israel and RC Strasbourg / Fra), DUDU GEORGESCU (Romania and Dinamo Bucharest / Rom), OGNJEN PETROVIC (Yugoslavia and Red Star Belgrade / Yug), WIM VAN HANEGEM (Holland and Feyenoord Rotterdam)

front row — BILLY BREMNER (Scotland and Leeds United / Eng), WIM SUURBIER (Holland and Ajax Amsterdam / Hol), CARLOS BIANCHI (Argentina and Stade de Reims / Fra), MORDECHAI SPIEGLER (Israel and FC Maccabi Netanya / Isr), ROB RENSENBRINK (Holland and RSC Anderlecht / Bel)

The year was 1974 … The all-time leading scorer in the history of the Israeli national team, 1968 Summer Games and 1970 World Cup veteran MORDECHAI SPIEGLER, helped French second division side Paris St. Germain attain promotion to Ligue 1 before transferring back to FC Maccabi Netanya in his homeland that summer. Midfielder GIORA SPIEGEL, another regular from Israel’s 1970 World Cup side in Mexico, just completed the first of what would be six solid seasons in the French football with Racing Club Strasbourg and Olympique Lyon.

Meanwhile, the coalition of something-less-than-friendly Arab states finally succeeded in having outnumbered and isoltated Israel formally expelled from the Asian Football Conference altogether. This in the wake of the previous year’s Yom Kippur War, a conflict ignited when a coalition of hostile Arab states led by Egypt and Syria launched a sneak attack on the holiest day possible with respect to the Jewish calendar. Formality, indeed, as throughout the 1960s and 70s, pretty much all of the Arab states had refused to play international matches of any sort against Israel, winners of the Asia Cup in 1964, anyway.

So it was off to the Oceania Football Conference for Israel to face such ‘regional’ rivals as Australia, Japan and South Korea for a while …



The Olympics were still off limits to professionals, though, so the path thru Oceania to the 1976 Summer Games in Montreal would have to be traveled without several key players from Israel’s 1970 World Cup squad. Experienced sweeper SHMUEL ROSENTHAL of FC Hapoel Petah Tikvah was ineligible on account of the 1972/73 season spent in West Germany with UEFA Cup Finalist Borussia Moenchengladbach. Not welcome in Canada, as well, were the two French legionnaires, Spiegel and Spiegler.

Defender DAVID PRIMO joined Spiegler for a summer with the New York Cosmos of the old North American Soccer League in 1975 and, in doing so, also violated the strict Olympic code of ‘amateurs’ only.


The all-time leading goal-scorer in the history of the Israel national football team, MORDECHAI SPIEGLER (21), was on hand at the delapidated (and since demolished) Downing Stadium at Randall’s Island under the Triborough Bridge the fateful day that Brazil World Cup superstar PELE (10) made his debut for the soon-to-become-famous New York Cosmos in the old North American Soccer League.

Jan 28, 2011


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