Wingate & Finchley FC: Built up from proud Anglo-Jewish roots
Wingate & Finchley FC are a club steeped in history with strong Anglo-Jewish roots stretching back to the 1940’s. Back in 2010, founding member Maurice Rebak documented his involvement at the Ryman League Premier Division side since their formation as Wingate FC in 1946.
Maurice, who has held the position of chairman, secretary and treasurer during the club’s history, is the only living member from the early years. In 1991, it was his hard work alongside Ken Aston and Frank Davis which managed to secure the club’s move from Arkley to what is now called the Harry Abrahams Stadium in Finchley. Here, Maurice shares his perspective on the heritage of Wingate & Finchley FC:
The Aftermath Of World War 2
Although the war against Nazism had been fought and won, in England we still had a very active fascist group headed by Oswald Mosley who were causing upsets in East London with riots against Jews and Jewish property. The Mosley-ites were opposed by the anti-fascist group of English Jewish ex-servicemen “The 43 Group” who met force with force and violence with violence. My younger brother David Rebak was at that time active in the 43 Group, and a meeting was set up my home in Golders Green one evening between him, Frank Davis, my older brother Asher Rebak and myself, to discuss what could be done to counter the prevalent antisemitism.
I was against the use of violence as the solution to the problems having seen so much during the War, and did not agree necessarily with the actions that David and his group were taking. We sought other means of opposing the fascists, and it was Asher who asked why don’t we fight the battle where it will hurt most – instead of using violence, use sportsmanship. From that he proposed we form a Jewish Football Club.
Setting Up The Club
Despite knowing relatively little about football, I was fully behind the idea. Frank and Asher then proceeded to arrange the formation of the club, getting FA approval and finding a pitch on which to play on. Jack Goldwhite, a freed P.O.W., used to play for Brady Street Boys Club and knew a number of Jewish players who were interested, and so a team was assembled. We then had to decide on a name for the club. There were a number of suggestions including Blue Star FC, which was quashed as it sounded just like a garage on the Finchley Road.
However, a number of the players that Jack knew were ex-Chindits (the largest of the allied Special Forces of the 2nd World War, who served under Lieutenant Orde Wingate), and eventually it was agreed to name the club after the memory of Orde Wingate, whilst his wife agreed to become a patron. Our original ground was the Indian Gymkhana ground at Southall and the club joined the Middlesex Senior League, with an all-Jewish team. By 1952 they were promoted to the London League and later the Athenian League.
The issue of non-Jewish players joining the team was continually raised, and though Asher and I were in support of the idea, other members were worried that the club might lose its identity. However eventually we all agreed to amalgamate our non-Jewish friends into the team, under the proviso that the majority of the team were to remain Jewish.
This was to maintain the sole purpose of the club which was to fight antisemitism on the field of sport. It was common knowledge amongst the football fraternity that we were a Jewish club and that our purpose was to fight antisemitism, in fact the club was known as Wingate ‘’The Jewish Football Club‘’.
This however meant that we did meet lots of antisemitism on the pitch – such as cynical fouling and being shouted at “go back to your own country”, along with various other comments. Our players were strictly told not to retaliate and to rise above it by focusing on winning the match. This was carried out superbly, and in fact the Middlesex Senior League had an end of season Sportmanship Trophy that Wingate FC won for many years in a row.
Asher Rebak and Frank Davis raised the money required to buy the ground at Hall Lane Hendon (£10,000) and Wingate FC became leaseholders of the ground as it became owned by the Maccabi Association.
The ground was opened at the start of the fifties by The Duke of Edinburgh – a fantastic achievement for such a young club – and in its time the ground was even used by the England national team for training.
There is a picture in the Boardroom showing the England team of 1962-3 at the ground and the England team also used the ground for training prior to the 1966 World Cup.
Coming to the present day it gives me concern at the moment at the shortage of Jewish players available in the club, and although I am aware of the difficulties in the highly competitive league in which the club plays I do feel that it is vital that the club uses all its available resources to encourage the development of Jewish players.
Equally the club has played its part in developing goodwill between people of different races, religions and backgrounds and this is a tremendous tribute that the club is using its position within football to encourage goodwill between people which is ‘’ in line ‘’ with the original aims of the club.
I am extremely gratified that after more than 60 years the club is well run, well respected, and has a home at The Harry Abrahams Stadium which is the envy of many non league clubs. I now sit on the Committee of the Wingate Youth Trust, which was formed in 1972 with the proceeds after the Government purchased the Hall Lane ground in order to build the M1. The current members of the club must be well aware that from its inception large sums of money have had to be raised by means of various functions every year to cover the cost of running the club.
As an example, at the time of the merger with Finchley FC in 1991, the cost of modernising the Abrahams Stadium was £630,000, and since that year many extra thousands in annual maintenance. I must express my gratitude to Mrs Grete Abrahams MBE for the vast financial support that she has given to the Wingate Youth Trust (whose objectives include the provision of leisure facilities for youth, in particular Jewish youth) and this Stadium is named in the memory of her late husband.
I also express my thanks to the current Trustees Martyn Stone, Brian Franks, Howard Lerman and my son Peter Rebak for the unfailing support throughout the years. I also need to thank the countless number of the Jewish community who throughout the years in their own quiet way have supported the club with their time and money as well as cheering on the fortunes of the club. Although I have a never failing interest in the club, due to my young age I now have to be cautious as to what the weather is going to be like before I enter the ground and meet all my old friends.
I was very proud to have helped found the club, which has lasted through all these years and affected the lives of so many people. I consider it a great achievement for four ordinary young people and it could have only been attained with the unstinting help and patience of members of their families and friends.
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