Maccabi SA News

Ronen Cohen, Maccabi Volunteer Extraordinaire

26 January 2016
One of Maccabi SA’s most dedicated volunteers is Capetonian Ronen Cohen, who has been involved with the organisation since he was seven years old.

The culture of volunteerism lies at the very core of the Maccabi Movement. Maccabi SA is operated almost entirely by volunteers who generously sacrifice their time and effort as well as share their knowledge and skills, all of which is vital for ensuring the success and sustainability of the organisation.

Ronen has achieved great success both on and off the field as player, manager, coach, convenor and administrator. Below is a snapshot of his involvement in Maccabi:

  • Won bronze medal, Junior Table Tennis, 1997 Maccabi Games
  • Manager, Maccabi SA U16 Football team, 2005 Maccabi Games
  • Manager, Maccabi SA Masters Football team, 2009 Maccabi Games
  • Player & Manager, Maccabi SA Open Futsal team, 2013 Maccabi Games
  • Coach, Maccabi SA U16 Futsal team; Manager, Maccabi SA Open Futsal team (won bronze medal); Player, Maccabi SA Masters Futsal team (won Bronze medal), 2015 European Maccabi Games
  • Vice Chairman of Maccabi WP since 2009; Maccabi SA Futsal Convenor since 2010; Member of Maccabi SA Exco since 2012.

As Maccabi SA’s preparations kick into high gear for the 2017 Maccabiah, we had a chat with Ronen who epitomises the Maccabian spirit of volunteerism and community service.

Q: Maccabi has played a significant role in your life. What attracted you to the Maccabi family?

A: Sport has always been my “oxygen” so to speak and having grown up as an observant Jew in Cape Town, Maccabi offered me the opportunity to combine both my love for sport, with my yiddishkeit and love for Israel. It has allowed me to play sport (both at a social and competitive level) that I normally would not have had a chance to participate in.

Q: What are your favourite memories of the Maccabiah?

A: Definitely meeting other Jews from all over the world who share the same passions as me and to this day remain as some of my best friends. A great memory was walking into the opening ceremony at the 2013 Maccabiah behind a banner that said “Celebrating our legacy – Mandela Day”, that was definitely a proud moment for me as a South African Jew. However, the memory that will stay with me forever was my first Games in Israel as part of the 1997 Junior Table Tennis team that won a bronze medal.

Q: As Maccabi SA’s Futsal Convenor, you have established a very successful futsal programme. What inspired you to take on this role?

A: I did a lot of research into futsal and realised that is it an excellent sport for coaching and developing the youth. I saw futsal as a great opportunity for Maccabi SA to succeed in. However, it was not very active in SA so I took it upon myself to get the sport going here.

Q: Tell us about the origins and achievements of the Maccabi SA Futsal programme:

A: In 2010, when the FIFA World Cup came to SA, I enquired with Maccabi SA if we could start futsal as an active sport for South Africa, with the objective of taking an Open team to the 2011 Pan Am Maccabi Games in Sao Paulo. We used that experience as a springboard to send an Open team to the 2013 Maccabiah in Israel and finally we were able to garner enough interest and support from players to send an U16, Open and Masters teams to participate at Maccabi SA’s inaugural European Maccabi Games (EMG) in Berlin in 2015.

In 2011 in Sao Paulo the Open team lost all their games, but then we went to Israel in 2013 and won three games. This was followed by the 2015 EMG in Berlin where I am very proud that the Open and Masters teams each won bronze medals (Ed: Ronen’s brother Gadi plays for the Open team).

We have been working extremely hard since 2011 to grow and improve and are hoping to build on this progress by implementing futsal at grassroots level. Maccabi WP launched a Junior Girls Futsal League in Oct 2015, consisting of 4 teams (2 x Maccabi WP, Aspire Soccer Academy & Brooklyn Sports & Development), which was won by Maccabi Tel Aviv. The objective is to develop & improve the skills of the girls, with the longer term goal of sending an U16 girls futsal team to the upcoming Maccabi Games in Israel in July 2017.

Q: Preparations for EMG took 18 months, and you attended as Masters player, Open Manager and Junior Coach. This must have been quite a challenge and taken up a lot of your time and effort. What motivates you to do this?

A: Yes, it was an extremely challenging 18 months, but at the end it was well worth the sacrifice. Sport can be an immensely powerful tool if used correctly to bring together all different types of people. I believe in the ideology of Maccabi where one can combine the love of sport, yiddishkeit and giving back to one’s community, which motivates me to do what I do. I try to teach all our youngsters life lessons through the platform of sport, which I believe they will be able to take with them throughout their lives, wherever they go.

Q: You are also Vice-Chairman of Maccabi WP which has a very active events programme and has achieved great success in recent years. What do you attribute this success to?

A: TEAMWORK. Maccabi WP is made up of a handful of volunteers and amazing parents who assist us with admin, operations etc. We all know our role and share in the same vision for our youth which is what we focus on. We are extremely lucky to have such dedicated and helpful parents involved, which I think is key to our success.

Q: Maccabi worldwide is largely driven by volunteers. From your own experiences, what are the main the rewards of volunteering?

A: It’s the giving back and moulding of our Jewish youth. This is very important as we constantly teach our juniors that they must be “a light unto other nations” and lead by example. Also the fact that we get to travel to other countries to compete in sports does help!!

Q: What qualities should a great Maccabi Sports Convenor have?

A: Strong people skills and patience are vital, along with the mentality of always putting yourself in other people’s shoes; passion for what you do; strong organisational and communication skills; and a willingness to listen to advice.

Q: What qualities are required for to be an effective Maccabi administrator?

A: Strong communication skills; efficient planning; be proactive and lead by example.

Q: What are your Maccabi goals for the future?

A: My main goal is to one day establish the African Maccabi Games in South Africa and showcase the world what potential South Africa has to offer. Another personal goal of mine is to create a Maccabi WP Sports Club where we could provide regular competitive sports activities for our community.

Thank you Ronen! You are a great asset to Maccabi SA. Kol HaKavod.

For any queries about Maccabi SA’s futsal programme, email Ronen on futsal@maccabi.co.za and you can also follow him on Twitter @RonenCohz.

The countdown to the 2017 Maccabiah has begun and the search is on for skilled, organised, enthusiastic and dedicated team players to join Team Maccabi SA. If you want to make a valuable contribution to the Jewish sporting community, and for more info, click here.

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