1940 Mandatory Palestine v Lebanon football match
The 1940 association football match between the national teams of Mandatory Palestine and Lebanon was the latter's first-ever official international match, and the former's last before they became the Israel national team after 1948. The match took place on 27 April 1940 at the Maccabiah Stadium in Tel Aviv. Officiated by John Blackwell of the British Army, the game was watched by 10,000 spectators and ended in a 5–1 victory for the home side.
|Date||27 April 1940|
|Venue||Maccabiah Stadium, Tel Aviv|
|Referee||John Blackwell (England)|
Mandatory Palestine scored in the first minute of the game, doubling their lead 10 minutes later with a penalty kick. Two more goals by the home side meant the first half ended 4–0. Mandatory Palestine's forced substitution at half-time due to injury hampered their control of the game and in the fifth minute of the second half, Lebanese forward Camille Cordahi scored to become Lebanon's first official international goalscorer. Werner Kaspi scored his second goal of the game in the 60th minute, with the match ending 5–1.
During the 1930s, Lebanon was a regular destination for friendly tours by clubs in Mandatory Palestine. Clubs such as Maccabi Tel Aviv, Maccabi Petah Tikva and Maccabi Haifa regularly played teams from Beirut, Tyre and Sidon. At the end of 1939, Lebanese Football Association (LFA) chairman Jamil Sawaya visited family in Jerusalem and Jaffa. An agreement was signed for the Lebanese team to visit Tel Aviv for a friendly match against Mandatory Palestine.
Plans were announced in late March 1940 for a four-team football tournament with the national teams of Mandatory Palestine and Lebanon, and teams from the British Army in Palestine and the French Army in Lebanon. However, with the two armies put on alert in mid-April in anticipation of the Battle of France, the tournament was called off and only the match between Mandatory Palestine and Lebanon went ahead.
The game was set for 27 April 1940 at the Maccabiah Stadium, located on the banks of the Yarkon River estuary. On the eve of the game, the Mandatory Palestine players, mostly Jewish, were invited to tea and cake at a cafe on Rothschild Boulevard. They were told that each player had to go to the locker room at the stadium on their own, with their own football boots. The players did not train for the game and, in the small dressing room, only 14 received the light-blue-and-white kit. In addition to the starting XI, the three Palestine substitutes were goalkeeper Asi Asher, left-back Lonia Dvorin, and forward Peri Neufeld, who played for Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Arthur Baar, an Austrian football coach, was called as the compiler of the team, sending out the call-ups to the players. No official coach was called up as Egon Pollak, Mandatory Palestine's coach at the time, was spending time in Australia. On the day of the match, Baar invited Armin Weiss, Maccabi Tel Aviv's coach, to serve as the acting coach of the game. Weiss accepted the task, giving the Palestinian players a pre-match talk, and instructing them from the sidelines during the match.
The game was played on 27 April 1940. It was Lebanon's first official international game, and Mandatory Palestine's last. Mandatory Palestine had previously played and lost four official games, all FIFA World Cup qualifiers (two in 1934 and two in 1938). The match was played in Tel Aviv at the Maccabiah Stadium, which was decorated with the flags of both nations; around 10,000 spectators came to watch, many of whom were British. The referee was John Blackwell of the British Army.
In the first minute of the game, Mandatory Palestine right winger Herbert Meitner of Hapoel Rishon LeZion scored against Lebanese goalkeeper Nazam Sayyad. This was followed by a penalty kick by Avraham Schneiderovich of Maccabi Ness Tziona in the 11th minute, doubling the advantage for the home side. Although the Lebanese team began to respond offensively, they failed to score against goalkeeper Benjamin Mizrahi. Mandatory Palestine regained control of the game later in the first half and, in the 31st minute, Gaul Machlis scored Mandatory Palestine's third goal. He was assisted from the left wing and ran around the defence to score into an empty goal. In the 40th minute, Mandatory Palestine captain Werner Kaspi scored a solo effort, with the first half ending 4–0.
The second half was more balanced. Mandatory Palestine centre-half Zvi Fuchs was replaced at halftime by left-back Lonia Dvorin following an injury, and left-back Yaacov Breir moved up to centre-half. The change hindered Mandatory Palestine's control of the game. Lebanese forward Camille Cordahi scored against Mizrahi in the 50th minute, with Muhieddine Jaroudi providing the assist; Cordahi was Lebanon's first official international goalscorer. However, ten minutes later Kaspi scored his second goal of the game. After the goal, the Lebanese coach asked Mandatory Palestine coach Arthur Baar to go easy. Baar later stated that the Lebanese coach had sought to maintain good relations between the two countries, and asked not to defeat them in a harsh manner. Indeed, the home side began to pass the ball back and forth, and won by a final score of 5–1.
The match was Lebanon's first official international, and their first official defeat. Mandatory Palestine's win was their first (and only) in an official match before they became the Israel national team after 1948.
The Palestine Post described the match as "rather one-sided" and stated it had not lived up to expectations, with the home side both physically and technically superior. In general, it wrote, the Mandatory Palestine team played efficiently throughout the whole game; exceptions being the two full-backs (Shalom Shalomzon and Lonia Dvorin), who were not deemed up to par in the second half. Despite the scoreline, Mandatory Palestine goalkeeper Binyamin Mizrahi had been kept busy. With his two goals, captain Werner Kaspi became the first player of the Israel national team (Mandatory Palestine's successor) to score a brace. Following the game, commentators expressed surprise regarding coach Arthur Baar's decision to exclude Peri Neufeld from the match, given that he was one of "Palestine's most prominent players at the time".
Although the Palestinian forwards scored five goals between them, Lebanese goalkeeper Nazem Sayadi made many saves, several "brilliantly", and played very well; "[t]he goals that did get past him would have beaten any custodian", the Post wrote. Lebanon's front line was their "weakest link", the Post continued, with centre-forward Camille Cordahi and outside-right Muhieddine Jaroudi being the only two "up to international standard". Although Lebanon's midfield was not "very effective", their back line played particularly well, especially Yeguiché at right-back.
After the game, Palestinian fans enthusiastically waited outside the locker room to greet the players. The last two players to come out of the stadium were Lonia Dvorin, who supported his injured teammate Zvi Fuchs. Both walked to the Hadassah Hospital for Fuchs to receive treatment. The two coaches agreed for another friendly match, to be held in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1941. However, the match never came to fruition.
Lebanon did not play another official match until a 1953 game against Syria at the Pan Arab Games, although they played several unofficial matches in between, all of which were against Damascus XI (a Syrian representative team), except for a game against a team representing Iraq's Ministry of Education. Israel did not play their first official match under their new identity until 1949, in a friendly against Cyprus, although they played an unofficial match against the United States Olympic team in 1948.
Regarding Palestine's 12 players involved, the match was the only cap for eight (Mizrahi, Breir, Fuchs, Meitner, Erlich, Kaspi, Schneiderovitz, Dvorin), and the last cap for three (Friedmann, Reich, Machlis). Shalomzon, who debuted in the game, would become the only player of the match to go on to make an appearance for the Israel national team, playing in the 1948 friendly against the United States. As for the two unused substitutes, Neufeld's only two international caps were in the 1938 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, where he scored once, whereas Asher would ultimately never be capped at international level, neither for Mandatory Palestine nor for Israel.
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