Soccer in Safad
I was interested to read in a recent copy of TIME that the new Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas was born in the Northern area of Safad in 1935. That would have made him eight years of age when I was posted to Safad in 1943.
He would doubtlessly have been one of those Arab Urchins, who, alongside the Jewish Urchins, played football with a tennis ball in the street outside our Police Station on most days. That thoroughfare running through Safad could hardly be called a 'Street' any more than Safad could be called a town. It was an unpaved thoroughfare of about 100 yards long very dusty in summer and muddy during winter.
Looking out from the Police Station, the Arab Quarter was on our left with the Jewish area being on our right.
Football was the great passion for all the boys as it still is today, and they loved to engage any British Policemen who happened in and out of the Police Station. As we walked through the throng, one of the would make sure that the tennis ball would be passed to us, and we would try to take a hefty kick at it but it being so small we often landed on our backside much to the delight of the Urchins.
Even B.I. Jimmy Walsh would enter into the fun of things. Jimmy was a good player in fact.
There was never any animosity between those boys in those days, as they had not yet been 'taught' that some of the players were their 'Enemies'.
Even in the later days of Palestine, Police Teams (certainly in Jerusalem) continued to play against Arab and Jewish teams. We would turn up at a village or Kibbutz with no Arms and the gates would be locked behind us and we would play a game and stay on for an hour or so after the game had ended, and, under those circumstances, we knew we were quite safe. Had we gone back a couple of hours later in uniform that would have been a different story.
In 1947, Booby Brooks (Head Constable i/c the Armourers Shop) and I played in a mixed team in Jerusalem without fear or favour.
Hail to the Footballer, Soccer, that is