Shabbat forfeit crisis averted

Members of Maccabi Caulfield Women’s FC team. Photo: Peter Haskin

A POTENTIALLY damaging own goal to the spirit of inter-club women’s football was averted late on Tuesday, when successful high level negotiations reversed a forced forfeit by Maccabi Caulfield Women’s FC team, who were unable to play their latest scheduled State League 1 Southeast match due to it coinciding with Shabbat. 

The team was promoted to division 1 this season and players were devastated when they had to forfeit against hosts Monbulk Rangers Soccer Club in last Friday night’s Round 12 fixture – their second forced forfeit in two seasons.

On Monday, the playing group expressed frustration on their team’s Facebook and Instagram sites, claiming that their earlier requests to Football Victoria (FV) and the club involved, to reschedule the game fell on deaf ears, while also expressing thanks to all the competition’s clubs who had shown understanding of their needs, and rescheduled games in the past.

Maccabi Victoria president Brian Swersky became aware of the issue on Tuesday, and in the absence of Maccabi Caulfield FC’s president Kevin Milstein, who is overseas, took it upon himself to reach out to FV’s operations manager and the president of the Monbulk Rangers. Within hours there was a resolution.

Swersky told The AJN “the outcomes of our discussions were 100 per cent positive”, and confirmed the game has been rescheduled to Sunday, August 11, and FV will reverse the forfeiture.

He confirmed it is the policy of the majority of Maccabi Victoria clubs to refrain from training or competing on Shabbat and Jewish holy days, and that each major sport association is responsible for setting the fixtures for their code, without input from the competing clubs.

But he stressed that Maccabi Victoria, and its member sports clubs, “share positive and respectful interactions with our peers” and “this forms the rule, rather than the exception”.

“Maccabi, through its numerous presidents, team managers, coaches, volunteers and athletes have built up trust, respect and good working relationships with other clubs and associations across the spectrum,” Swersky said.

“Accordingly, the issue is now resolved, and we are working with FV to identify club ‘blackout’ days, be it Shabbat [in our case] or Ramadan, prior to releasing fixtures.”

Maccabi Caulfield Women’s FC, in a statement to The AJN, expressed hope that the situation they faced last week will not repeat itself.

Their message was “sport should be a uniting force … we want to be a proud Jewish club that is competitive – not one or the other”.