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2014-02-25T12:00:00 Updated 2015-02-18T22:35:21

'We all follow the West Ham'

West Ham United and Israel have enjoyed many links down the years.

Dating back nearly 50 years, the Hammers and the Middle Eastern nation have seen their paths cross on a number of occasions - from Israel captain Mordechai Spiegler being invited for a trial by Ron Greenwood in 1971, through the appearances of Eyal Berkovic and Yossi Benayoun in Claret and Blue to Avram Grant's appointment as manager in 2010.

The historic links between the two have seen many Israeli football fans opt to support West Ham. Among those fans is Eran Rosenshine, who followed in his uncle Moshe's footsteps by becoming a Hammer in January 1997. Since then, Rosenshine has been hooked, visiting the Boleyn Ground himself on a number of occasions.

Here, Rosenshine picks up the unlikely story of how he became a Hammer.

"As strange as it may sound coming from someone in Israel, West Ham is a family thing for me," he said. "It all dates back to the 1970 World Cup in Mexico - the only one Israel has ever qualified for. Israel's star player at the time, Mordechai 'Motale' Spiegler, was brought to West Ham the following summer on trial by Ron Greenwood, and the story made massive headlines over here, as West Ham were at their peak as a Club with Bobby Moore and Sir Geoff Hurst still gracing the Claret and Blue.

"Spiegler didn't get a work permit and couldn't sign for the Club, but my uncle Moshe was hooked for life. He became a massive West Ham fan over the years, has been to the 1980 Charity Shield and the 2006 FA Cup final against Liverpool, and travelled to numerous games home and away.

"Many years later I was born, and as soon as I made early signs of interest in football he gave me no choice but to become a Hammer, and I can't thank him enough!"

As he has got older, Rosenshine has watched West Ham more and more regularly - at home, at the pub in the city of Tel Aviv or in person at the Boleyn Ground.

"We get almost every Premier League fixture live on satellite over here these days, so I watch most of our games on the telly," he explained. "But it hasn't always been that easy! When we were in the Championship I obviously had to settle for BBC online radio commentary and once I even had a mate in England stick a PC microphone next to his radio so I and some other overseas Hammers could listen to a game!"

On one visit to watch his heroes in action, he and his uncle Moshe were invited into the Club's Chadwell Heath training ground by then-manager Harry Redknapp.

"I have a lot of great experiences related to West Ham," Rosenshine said. "I won't ever forget when Harry Redknapp let me and my uncle in his office after we attended a training session at Chadwell Heath. He sat down with us for at least half-an-hour and told us some great stories about the Club.

"Later on the players were having their lunch and I remember Neil Ruddock, Ian Pearce and the great Les Sealey being really kind to have a little chat with me and sign autographs. It was a day to remember!"

On another occasion, Rosenshine met one of his heroes closer to home.

"I once met Rio Ferdinand on my birthday when he was on vacation in Israel after the 1998 World Cup. The guy was amazed to see Israeli West Ham fans and was keen to chat with us, share some stories and tell us how honoured he was to win Hammer of the Year that season. He really came across as a top bloke."

Eran Rosenshine

Rosenshine names Paolo Di Canio and Bobby Zamora as his favourite players, while he has a long list of favourite matches that he has attended in person down the years.

"I do my best to fly over every couple of years to watch a string of games live, home and away, and I have some brilliant memories from these trips," he explained. "My first trip was back in the 1998/99 season. My uncle took me to London to watch the Hammers live for the first time but I was unfortunate to watch us draw 0-0 twice at Aston Villa and at Leicester's old Filbert Street and lose 1-0 at home to Charlton! Imagine my disappointment not to see a single West Ham goal, only to return home to watch us thrash Derby County 5-1 on the TV in the following game!

"After that baptism of fire I have actually had a lot of luck watching us. I was privileged to see some great West Ham performances over the years. The ones that stick out are when we thrashed Villa 4-0 with a Marlon Harewood hat-trick under the floodlights, a great away win against Fulham and a brilliant win over Spurs at home in 2010!"

The Israeli has also enjoyed seeing two of his country's most-famous and greatest-ever players pull on a Claret and Blue shirt in midfielders Berkovic and Benayoun - helping West Ham to grow in popularity there.

"I wouldn't say West Ham is well-supported here, but Israelis do have a soft spot for the Club. Some of Israel's top players have played for the Club, and it got a lot of good publicity in the local media during those times.

"I think Berkovic and Benayoun did brilliantly for us, and whenever any of them is asked about his time at West Ham, they're full of praise. It's a very warm Club with a family atmosphere and it's perfect for Israelis to settle at. In addition, I think the West Ham way of attacking football was really suitable for Israeli footballers such as Eyal and Yossi, who are usually technically gifted but not the most physical."

While Berkovic and Benayoun may have gone, Rosenshine's support of West Ham remains as loyal as ever, and he has been delighted by the present team's recent resurgence up the Barclays Premier League table.

"I love the way players such as Matt Taylor and George McCartney really stepped up when needed and instilled fighting spirit in the team. It's all about battling our way to safety at this point and with the attitude these kind of players show I'm pretty sure we'll be fine.

"I have a lot of faith in Big Sam. He's starting to get his full squad back and brought in some quality players in the transfer window. I think we're top of the league in terms of clean sheets and that's going to be crucial for survival."

*If you are a West Ham fan in Israel on holiday or business, Eran Rosenshine would be more than happy to meet up to watch a West Ham match in one of the local pubs. To contact him, email

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