Maor Melikson. Photo: PAP/Adam Ciereszko
On Wednesday, Grzegorz Lato, the president of the Polish Football Association (PZPN), declared that “it was only a matter of time”, before Melikson played for Poland.
Lato said that he had spoken to Melikson, and that the 27-year-old midfielder had expressed “an unequivocal desire to play for Poland.”
Melikson has been playing for Polish premier league side Wisla Krakow since January as part of a four-and-a-half year contract. The footballer’s mother was born in Poland, but she emigrated to Israel as a child. Melikson himself has dual citizenship.
Nevertheless, the mid-fielder has played for Israel’s youth teams in the past, and even this August he scored a goal for Israel in a friendly against the Ivory Coast.
Row over anti-Semitism
Although reporting of the case was largely neutral in the Israeli press, matters were soured by the appearance of an article in the right-wing tabloid Israel HaYom.
Writing for the paper, Melikson’s former trainer Eli Sohar called Poland “the state of Auschwitz” and questioned whether the midfielder “should represent a country in which 70 years ago, the majority of its citizens carried out the murder of his grandfather and grandmother and the [Jewish] community in general.”
The Israeli embassy in Warsaw has distanced itself from such comments, noting that certain comments in both the Polish and the Israeli press “do not always serve the good relations between our two countries.”
During the war, some Poles did aid the Nazi occupiers in hunting down Jewish citizens.
On the other hand, the legitimate Polish-government-in-exile backed a wing of the underground that was devoted to aiding Jews.
The Polish ambassador to Israel, Agnieszka Magdziak-Miszewska, has herself issued a statement, highlighting that it was Nazi Germany that had orchestrated the Holocaust.
“It is true that anti-Semitism existed in prewar Poland,” the ambassador said.
“It is also true that the Germans created the largest Jewish cemetery in the world on our land. But for the past 20 years, our peoples and governments have spent a great deal of energy dealing with the painful past and building a new relationship,” she added.
Melikson has reportedly received threats from Israelis after it was announced that he might play from Poland. (nh/jb)