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Fifa poll: Welsh Cohen spins for Prince Ali




So, when we have a world event happening like the Fifa presidential election which takes place today (Friday, February 27), our first question is always: Which candidate will be the best for Israel?

As a lot of people will know, last year the Asian bloc, supported by much of Africa, tried to get Israel thrown out of Fifa over claims the country did not allow free passage for (Palestinian) soccer players to enter Israel for practice purposes.      

Israel managed to avoid the vote by making a series of concessions and that stopped any chance of the opposition getting the two-thirds majority to have Israel suspended.

The favourites to win the presidential vote are Sheikh Salman Ebrahim bin al-Khalifa, the Bahraini Asian Football Confederation president, and Gianni Infantino, the Uefa general secretary who decided to stand when Michel Platini was suspended, then banned, from football for eight years.

The other contenders are Prince Ali of Jordan, former Fifa official Jerome Champagne of France and South Africa’s Tokyo Sexwale. The pundits claim Champagne and Sexwale are absolute no-hopers.

Champagne would need the support of Europe and most of those votes have already been pledged to Infantino, while Sexwale has lost most of Africa’s support to Sheikh Salman.

Prince Ali looked the principal player last year when he stood against Sepp Blatter, but Sheikh Salman now seems to have the support of Asia and Africa, making him the front-runner.   

However, based on an incident last week, the election of Sheikh Salman could prove a nightmare for Israel, as the race for the top job turns ugly. Infantino and Prince Ali have both launched attacks on Salman as the result of a bizarre furore concerning the Jordanian’s public relations head, Shimon Cohen.

Mohammed Al Mudaweb, who works for the Bahraini Football Association, had been accused of conducting a smear campaign against Cohen after suggesting he was a former Israeli footballer. He posted a series of tweets claiming Cohen was born in Tel Aviv and played football for Israel in the 1960s.

But the “PR Cohen” is, in fact, a 55-year-old Welshman rather than the footballer of the same name, who played nine times for the Israeli national team in the 1960s.

“This is a disgraceful racist attack by Salman’s home football association, implying that just because I am a Jew, there is an Israeli plot afoot,” Cohen said.

“A Google search would have shown I’m a Welsh PR guy, not a retired footballer.”

Cohen grew up in an Orthodox home in Wales and attended a comprehensive school on a council estate in Cardiff, where classmates called him George.

“I was a child of the sixties and the only Cohen anyone had ever heard of was the footballer George Cohen. There was only one other Jewish boy in my year, but I had a great time being Jewish at school. There was no anti-Semitism at all.

“As long as you all hated the English, you had a common hate!”

Cohen, a recipient of the Pierre Gildesgame Jewish Youth Leader Award, led the local Bnei Akiva as a teenager.

He is a member of Hampstead Garden Suburb Synagogue and was once an adviser to former Chief Rabbi Lord Jakobovits. After leaving Jakobovits’s office, he went to work with Saatchi & Saatchi co-founder Tim Bell, after an introduction from Lord David Young.

During his 14-year tenure at Bell Pottinger, Cohen says he wrote “a number” of speeches for Nelson Mandela and counted Andrew Lloyd Webber as a close client.

“If there are spin-doctors in the world, then I’m probably a spin-consultant. Spinning the story means spinning it to go in the right direction. The notion that PR people make things up is simply silly. You have to tell the truth, but you don’t have to tell the whole truth, so long as what you say is nothing but the truth.”

Prince Ali has now put in an appeal to delay the election in order to have transparent voting booths installed so that there can be no intimidation of voters.

Fifa, however, believes the current rules, the same ones that were in place when Blatter defeated Prince Ali last May, days before he was forced to stand down, are sufficient.

Prince Ali, who is said to be hopeful of polling up to 35 of the 209 available votes in the first round of voting and then building on that base in later rounds, has been vocal in complaining of intimidatory tactics by his rivals.

Whoever is elected will have to deal with a Fifa not trusted by seven out of 10 supporters. That was revealed in a recent poll which added that 50 per cent of fans believe the organisation will never be able to restore its tainted image.   

Water polo trials for Maccabiah 2017 coming up


South Africa has a proud tradition of water polo at the Maccabi Games and the trials for Juniors (born 1999 – 2000) and Opens (18 – 35 years of age) to attend the 2017 Maccabiah will take place at a two-day training camp on Sunday March 20 and Monday, March 21. The trials will be held at Rondebosch Boys’ High School in Cape Town.

The selectors are Dean Rimmer (head coach); Daniel Horwitz (assistant coach); Theo Yach and Alex Hawkins.

Teams will be announced at the conclusion of the trials camp. For players from Gauteng and other areas who cannot attend, the selectors will either arrange a trial later in the year or for the head coach to assess them, so anyone interested, but unable to attend, may contact Ian Neuburger; 083-448-4555 or Ari Jacobson; 082-895-0506, co-conveners of Maccabi SA Water Polo.

A junior and senior side will be selected. Each team will include 13 players and two non-travelling reserves. However, based on the response and the pool of players available, the selectors reserve the right to select a senior side only.

The 15-man squads will train from the trials date until Maccabiah 2017, with head coach Dean Rimmer. Players from outside of Cape Town will be required to attend occasional training camps. Details will be announced later.

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