The Stickler Referee vs the Stubborn Teenaged Jew
Motti Avraham is a 15-year-old athlete from Montreal. In January 2021, Motti signed up to play in a municipal soccer league. The rule is that before every game, all the players go to the referee for a safety check. He makes sure they are wearing the proper gear; shin guards under their socks, cleats, etc.
Before one such game, the referee noticed a yarmulke (kippah) on Motti's head. "You are not wearing that," he said.
Motti asked why. The referee responded curtly, "I don't have to tell you."
Motti protested, but to no avail. Motti knew the rules--that he would be allowed to wear a sports bandana which would hide his yarmulka. However, the referee's remark "You are not wearing that" did not sit well with him.
He approached his coach and told him clearly that he was not removing his yarmulka, even if it meant not playing. The coach then conferred with the referee, who told him that if Motti played with a yarmulka he would be ejected and his team would remain shorthanded for the remainder of the match.
Just as the game was about to start, the coach told the whole team what was going on, and that they should all get down on one knee in protest. The referee responded that if the team continued to protest and not play, it would be a forfeit and an automatic loss.
The coach from the opposing team didn't understand what was happening. When he heard what the protest was about, he instructed his team also to get down on one knee in support of Motti.
Interestingly, Motti is not only the sole Jewish player on his team, he is the only Jewish player in the league. So these were all non-Jewish coaches and players from all over Quebec, supporting Motti's right to wear a Yarmulka.
Both coaches spoke with the referee and a heated discussion ensued until finally the referee relented. Motti was able to wear his yarmulka with pride.
Motti scored two goals during the winning match. Towards the end of the game, he was replaced by a substitute. As Motti was leaving the field, he told the referee, "You can try to take my yarmulka, but cannot take my G-d."
The late Rabbi Jonathan Sacks articulated a point the Lubavitcher Rebbe often made: "Non-Jews respect Jews who respect Judaism, and they are embarrassed by Jews who are embarrassed by Judaism." *
May we all learn from Motti, that at all times and in all situations, to be
proud of who we are and what we represent.
Source: Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from article by Nochum Greenwald
on COLlive [https://collive.com/entire-league-protests-referee-demanding-yarmulka-be-removed
* Here are links to two more stories ["Queen
Esther of Jerusalem", "The
Prince, the Queen, and the Rabbi"], both reinforcing the same message,
from the 20th century. Not from the world of sports, however, but from the highest
level of international politics.