“The first Jewish sports club in the lands of the former Austrian partition was registered under the name Hasmonea and from that moment the organized and purposeful sports work began. The slopes of the «Kaiserwald» [Kaizerwald – hilly terrain in the Lviv borough of Zniesienie - editor's note] were no longer suitable for such work. After a long search, the club found and leased the area in Zniesienie, adapted it for sports purposes, and for the first time dug in its own goal posts. However, this happy arrangement of having the pitch did not last for a long time, because the Jewish community of Zniesienie did not welcome the first Jewish pioneers of the physical rebirth of the nation. The goalposts had to be dug out and moved to the Zamarstynów grassland, and from there again to the Janów meadow. This journey from place to place united the young organization more firmly, and at the same time developed in it fortitude and an unwavering will to overcome difficulties for the idea which they adhered to and which they loved.”[1.1]
According to the jubilee publication for the club's 25th anniversary, Hasmonea Lwów played its first football match, with the local Maraton team, in 1908. Unfortunately, neither the exact date of the match nor the final result is given there. A query of the Lviv press published in 1908 does not help to establish the details of this match. However, several other Hasmonea results appear in the pages of that year's Lviv papers. On 22 May 1908, it was defeated 4-3 by the third team of Pogoń Lwów, called the Blue Team. On 21 June, it lost again to the same rival, though this time 1-5. Certainly before 15 July, it lost to the local Lechia 3-5. On 1 October, it managed to beat the Black Lions (Polish: Czarne Lwy) juniors 2-1.From year to year, the white and blue played against more and more prominent rivals, which showed the increasing rank of the team.
On 22–23 October 1910, the Makabi team from Kraków came to Lviv. On the first day it was defeated by Pogoń 4-0, and the day after it played against Hasmonea. It was the first match between these two Jewish teams. The team from Krakow showed little technical sophistication, orientation, or use of combinations. However, the more experienced hosts also lacked these qualities. The match ended with the result 1:1.
On 12 November 1911, Hasmonea played against Pogoń reserves. Four days after the match, ‘Słowo Polskie’ daily announced that it had received information from witnesses about the scandalous scenes that had occurred that day. More details can be found in the ‘Wiek Nowy’ daily. The match was described as the saddest in the season. The brutality with which Pogoń behaved towards the opponent was unprecedented and defiled all the rules of a football game. The referee had to send off one of the Pogoń players for hitting the opponent's face, but this exclusion not only did not cool the Pogoń players but, on the contrary, only intensified the tough game. The match ended with the score 5-3 in favour of Pogoń. However, the judge's last whistle did not mean the end of the excesses. Hasmonea players returning home were apparently attacked with stones that severely injured some of them. The following day, Pogoń referred to the above-mentioned events in the press. It expressed regret for what had happened and full willingness to give Hasmonea complete satisfaction.
From then on, a new sports audience begins to come out from the backstreets of the ghetto to the football pitches. Hidden in the crowd of students, a pupil of beth midrash can be identified by his outfit and sometimes the sidelocks awkwardly placed behind the ears, or a pale and worn face of a Jewish craftsman, and there are more and more trading assistants and labourers.
In 1912, a tournament was organized in Lviv for the Sports Lover (Polish: Miłośnik sportu) award. All Lviv clubs could take part, except the highest ranking Czarni and Pogoń. Among others, Lechia, Sparta, Lauda, Błękitni, Lwowia, Unia and Hasmonea applied. Two Hasmonea teams entered the tournament, the first and the reserves. According to the rules of the tournament, the defeat eliminated the club from further matches.In the first series of matches, Hasmonea II did not show up for the match with Lechia and let its opponent win by walkover. The first team, on the other hand, competed with the reserves of Sparta and drew 0-0, and the match ended 20 minutes before due time because of the gathering darkness. For this reason, on the following day the missing minutes were played, and the score remained 0-0. Then the match was extended by another 20 minutes to determine the winner, and that also did not work. The committee ordered the that another twenty minutes must be played, but Sparta withdrew and Hasmonea was awarded the victory. In the subsequent round, Lechia was the rival of the white and blue players, and it decisively won 4-0, thus throwing Hasmonea out of the tournament.
The war, which in 1914 engulfed almost the entire world, like a hurricane, destroyed the structures of Jewish sports. The founder of the club, Adolf Kohn of blessed memory, other members of the club drafted into the army, were easing their hard times in the trenches or in captivity, with memories of the beautiful pre-war times and sporting episodes full of life. The pavement next to the Galician Savings Bank, where due to the lack of premisses the Maccabee brethren gathered for meetings and sports news, became deserted. No one was left to take over the club, and the Janów football pitch got overgrown with grass. Years had passed, the nightmare of war choked everyone and everything, and only the memory of Hasmonea remained.
After the outbreak of the war in 1914, as early as September Lviv was occupied by Russian troops. This situation lasted for almost ten months. During that time, the sports activity ceased. But in the latter half of 1915 and in 1916, several Hasmonea players made guest appearances in Pogoń colours. On 5 August 1916, Hasmonea reappeared on the pitch, and a year later, the club in the press announcements called on all its members to resume their sporting activities. In the last years of the war, the players of Lviv, apart from matches in their city, also travelled to Przemyśl and Stanisławów. Hasmonea's first match after the Great War took place on 23 August 1919. It ended with its opponent, Pogoń reserves, winning 6-0. ‘Chwila’ daily explained such a high score that due to the lack of a pitch, the white and blue players were insufficiently prepared for the encounter. The next match, just a week later, with the same rival ended in a 1-1 draw. By the end of the year, Hasmonea had two more victories and suffered two defeats, including one in Krakow against Makkabi.
In 1920, the first stage of the Polish football championship began. Hasmonea, that year under the name of ŻKS (Żydowski Klub Sportowy – Jewish Sports Club), was qualified for the B class in Lviv. Due to the Bolshevik aggression, the championship was discontinued, and out of the dozen or so results of the matches that have been ascertained, the Jewish team was defeated three times. These were the team's only known matches before the summer offensive from the east. After repelling the Soviet attack, the press, somewhat indirectly, mentioned one match of ŻKS Lwów. A note, propounded by ŻKS Złoczów, appeared thanking the people of Lviv for the help given to two players who were injured in the match of these teams on 9 October 1920.The two subsequent seasons, the white and blue players were in the second tier of the competitions. In 1922, in their Lviv sub-district group they had to recognize the superiority of the reserves of Czarni and Pogoń. However, these teams could not advance to the A-class, so it was Hasmonea which started in the qualifying competition with the best teams in the sub-districts and won advance to the top division. Until 1926, it successively proved that it was the third best football team of Lviv.
Józef Pariser declared a ruthless war against the ravines and boulders of this terrain. He summoned his soldiers from sports sections and schools, armed them with spades, shovels, and pickaxes, and led them into battle. Dozens of hands struggled tirelessly with the unrelenting dead nature. The school youth relieved artisans, and these ones in turn traders. Many a time, the young cadre was overwhelmed with doubts at the sight of these boulders and roots that chained their promised land, even the management began to lose hope in the possibility of overpowering this terrain and there were more and more voices urging them to stop further works.
After the Great War, Hasmonea rented an area of several morgens behind the Łyczakowski tollhouse in Krzywczyce. At that time, it was a village adjacent to Lviv, which was partially incorporated into the city in 1931. The ground levelling works begun under the supervision of Lieutenant Pariser. When he was killed by a Bolshevik bullet in 1920, there was a break in the preparation of the pitch. Finally, in 1923, thanks to the generosity of the director Scholz and the considerable dedication of the club members, the works on constructing bleachers, the football pitch surrounded by a running track, a cabin for the caretaker and a fence were completed.
The opening ceremony began with a service in the Progressive Synagogue on Saturday, 7 July 1923. On the afternoon of that day, Hasmonea played a match with the premier league Budapest team, Vivo AC, also Jewish. It ended with guests’ 3-1 win. On Sunday morning the pitch was consecrated by Chief Rabbi Dr Guttman, who in his speech emphasized the fact that a new sports facility was created for the good of the whole country. In the afternoon Hasmonea and Vivo AC teams returned to the pitch. This time the Hungarians achieved even better score – 4-0.
At the end of 1926, activities aimed at forming a league in Poland began. This matter had been discussed for several years. Hasmonea, as one of the three Lviv teams, joined the group of 14 squads that, apart from the union structures, decided to compete for the title of the national champion, in a new, more modern way.
This honourable nomination instilled a venom into Hasmonea's soul, which was slowly poisoning the healthy club organism, and the tragedy wanted that exactly in 1928, when Hasmonea celebrated the 20th anniversary of its glorious sports work, the league venom did its devastating work.The League, conceived in an unhealthy turbulent atmosphere, ushered in a period of decadence not only in league clubs and not only in football. The sports sections had to fight desperate battles for a miserable existence, because the league moloch was devouring all club revenue and subsidies, strapped all club employees to his chariot, demoralized players and activists, as well as the sports audience.The league venom turned out to be especially devastating in the organism of Jewish sports associations. One year in the League was enough for the Krakow's Jutrzenka to disappear completely from the sports life after the years of fruitful activity, and if Hasmonea did not succumb to the same fate, it may be because of its horned and in the struggle for existence hardened soul and thanks to the board from 1927, which, with considerable effort, managed to maintain and hand over to the new management, the sports sections that were not thriving, but still viable.
On 3 April 1927, on the Pogoń pitch, with the presence of nearly 5,000 spectators, of whom about a thousand “climbed over the fence,” as the rapporteur of ‘Słowo Polskie’ put it, Hasmonea started the league matches. Its rival, the four-time Polish champion, was the favourite of this match, but such a high score as 7-1 was not expected. The only goal for Hasmonea was scored from a free kick by Zygmunt Steuermann, in 86th minute. In their league debut, the white and blue starting line-up consisted of: Arnold – Redler, Birnbach – Schneider, Horowitz, Flischer – Adler, Seidel, Steuermann, Wolfsthal, Parness.
However, this match was invalidated. Hasmonea protested the result, claiming that a player of Pogoń - Prass was from Lechia and appeared on the pitch illegitimately. At the meeting of the of Matches and Discipline Section of the League, it turned out that a player Seidel was illegitimately playing in the Hasmonea team, which resulted in a decision to invalidate the match and a repeat of the match was ordered. Hasmoena played its next game, which was formally and statistically a league debut, as many as three weeks later. On 24 April 1927, in Krakow, it was defeated by the Vistula 3-1. On 8 May the team scored its first league points with Polonia Warsaw 2-2, in a match played in Lviv.
It had to wait for the first victory until 26 May, when it won against Czarni the Derby match 3-2. Overall in 1927, Hasmonea won 8 out of 26 league, tied 7 and lost 11. It ended up on the eleventh place with a goal balance of 55-78. The best scorer was Steuermann with 22 goals. Interestingly, looking only at its derby matches, in the so-called small table, Hasmonea was by far the best league team in Lviv.The firs league season was the only one in the 95-year history of these matches in which two Jewish teams competed. On 29 June 1927, Hasmonea, on its pitch, won against Krakow's Jutrzenka 2-1.
On 25 September, a 2-2 draw was recorded in Krakow. The second league season was not so successful. In place of the degraded Jutrzenka, ŚląskŚwiętochłowice advanced, additionally Cracovia was co-opted, but due to the conflict between the Polish Football Association (Polish: Polski Związek Piłki Nożnej; PZPN) and the League did not participate in the premiere matches. Thus, the number of teams increased to fifteen. The competition rules provided that three of them would be relegated. After the spring round (at that time there were two annual rounds: spring-autumn), Hasmonea’s position was not particularly impressive.
Despite three defeats at the start, in 13 matches (one was postponed to the autumn round) it accumulated 10 points from 4 wins and 2 draws, the goal balance was a draw; there was no tragedy yet. The first worries about Hasmonea's existence in the league appeared after it was defeated in Lviv by Ruch Wielkie Hajduki 3-4, in a match in which locals were leading 3-0 until the 55th minute. ‘Dziennik Ludowy’ daily wrote then that Lviv, as the cradle of sport in Poland, should retain its three league teams. However, the rematch round turned out to be a nightmare for the blue and white team. As many as eleven defeats and three times more goals conceded than scored, resulted in the Lviv club deserved, in the company of Śląsk Świętochłowice and Toruń Sports Club (Polish: Toruński Klub Sportowy; TKS), relegation from the premier league. It was ten points short of the safe place. However, a few matches from that season should be briefly mentioned. Unlike in 1927, this time Hasmonea could do nothing in the derby competition with Pogoń and Czarni; it was defeated four times. The best matches of the season were played against the teams that also left the league.
On 13 May 13, 1928, it won against TKS Toruń 5-1 and four days later with Śląsk Świętochłowice 6-0. On 3 May 1928, on the Czarni’s pitch, Hasmonea played with ŁKS Łódź. During the match, one of the spectators had a dispute with the guest player, which resulted in a brawl, after which a dozen or so teenagers entered the pitch. However, the referee did not allow the tension to escalate. A lot of confusion was brought about by Hasmonea match played with another team from Łódź, this time the Tourist Club (Polish: Klub Turystów). It took place in Łódź on 3 June 1928. Afterwards, the local press described Hasmonea's behaviour on the pitch as a profanation of football as a sport.It was accused of brutality and inelegance, which Łódź had not seen for a long time. However, the tone of Lviv papers was completely different. ‘Chwila’ informed that there were indeed most scandalous incidents on the pitch, but their cause was the complete ineptitude and partiality of the referee, and additionally the audience was apparently terrorizing and beating Lviv players. Just quarter-hour before the end, Hasmonea was leading 2-0, but due to its obvious playing for time, the referee extended the match by five minutes, during which the locals scored the winning goal.On 15 July, in Krakow, Hasmonea competed with Cracovia.
It lost 2-3 despite the significant advantage of their rivals, mainly thanks to the sensational efficiency of their reserve goalkeeper. The two goals scored by Steuermann, whom ‘Nowy Dziennik’ described as lazy and posing as a star, were applauded by a large group of Lviv fans who took a special trip to be there. Its cost was PLN 35. For comparison, the price of ‘Przegląd Sportowy’ weekly was then 30 grosz.The match of 23 September 1928, which took place on the Czarni’s pitch - though perhaps it is too far-fetched description - deserves a separate paragraph. As early as in the second minute of this Derby duel, a representative of the Jewish community entered the pitch with a letter, handwritten in Hebrew by the assistant rabbi, forbidding Hasmonea to play on the eve of Yom Kippur. The white-and-blue team had tried to reschedule this match, but these efforts did not bring the expected result. As usual in such cases, the opinions expressed in the press were extreme. ‘Dziennik Ludowy’ demanded severe punishment for Hasmonea for leaving the pitch, while ‘Express Wieczorny Ilustrowany’ criticized the League presidium for not showing the proper understanding to respect the Jewish holiday recognised by the military, schools, courts and other institutions of public life.
The last league match played by Hasmonea turned out to be a kind of grotesque. Its result from the perspective of the two already relegated teams was basically irrelevant, so the later decision to nullify the Lviv team victory 4-0 and replace it by 3-0 walkover for Silesia was of no importance in the context of the final league table. ‘Przegląd Sportowy’ reported that there has not been such a joyous match in Lviv for three years. In the Silesia team there was supposed to be a “daddy gentleman” with a huge belly, which did not kick the ball even once throughout the match. ‘Wiek Nowy’ pointed out that the B-class matches played on this pitch were often better. ‘Gazeta Poranna,’ on the other hand informed that the spectators around the Lviv football pitches had never laughed as much as during that match. And the walkovers at the end of the league competition, resulting from the suspension of Hasmonea due to its unsettled financial liabilities to the Polish Football Association, the league and several clubs, were a "final touch" in the downfall and degradation of the white and blue.
At the end of November 1932, on the eve of the 25-year anniversary celebration the club suffered a severe blow. Unknown perpetrators burnt the stand, the product of the club's 25-year work. Although the fire brigade arrived almost immediately, it was unable to contain the fire that had been started in several places. After less than an hour, the stand was completely burnt down. Interestingly, it was not the first such an incident in Lviv. Three years earlier, the fire consumed the stand of Czarni, and the stand of Ukraina Lwów was destroyed in similar circumstances. After the tragedy, Hasmonea received many expressions of support and offers to help with reconstruction. As early as mid-December 1932, the press reported that work on repairing the damage had begun.
In the 1930s, Hasmonea was playing in the second tier with varying luck. Until 1933, in the Lviv district it was class A, and from 1934 changes were made in the structures of the matches; a district class was established. For the club, which was demoted from the league ranks in 1928, achieving in the following years the top position in local competitions which would open the way to interregional competition for advancement to the elite, turned out to be unattainable. Anyway, the teams of the Lviv district were not very lucky here, because only Lechia managed to win such an advancement in 1929. Additionally, it is worth noting that practically none of the Jewish clubs, of which there were quite a few in Poland, were strong enough to reach the premier league, but even to struggle for it as the district champion. Only Gwiazda Warszawa (1932 and 1934), Hasmonea Równe (1932 and 1933) and Makabi Wilno (1939) won the first place in their districts.
Considering that the champions of all districts took part in these competitions (15 in 1939), it can be seen that Jewish football in Poland was not of a very high standard. Jutrzenka Kraków and Hasmonea Lwów, which were given places in the league at its beginning, after relegation, could not regain them, but even advance to interregional matches.The specificity of the selection of players for these teams was definitely a factor. Looking at the regulations of these clubs, most of had an entry, like this one from Kadima in Kraków: “...any Jew, regardless of gender, from the age of 16, can become an ordinary member.”Looking for analogies in our times, we can see a similarity with the rules of selecting players for Athletic Bilbao, which is in the Spanish league. Its players can be only those who were born in the Basque Country. The adoption of such a criterion for selecting club members significantly limited the possibilities of strengthening it in rivalry with other clubs.
The 1938/39 season ended with Hasmonea in fourth place in the district table. The undisputed best team was Junak Drohobycz, confidently making its way to the premier league which from 1940 was to consist of 12 teams. Now without the most formidable rival in the district, Hasmonea was able to start new season with the hope of winning the advancement and, after more than 10 years, regaining its place among the highest-ranking teams. Especially that its potential was revealed in the spring round of 1939, when the white and blue were the only ones who defeated the team from Drohobycz 4-2. But on the other hand, so as not to get overjoyed, they managed to lose with RKS Lwów (Polish: Robotniczy Klub Sportowy Lwów), which at that time was at the bottom of the table.Hasmonea was preparing itself for the new season through sparring matches. In the first of them it defeated Orb Złoczów 2-1, and in the second one, with the same score Gazy Schodnica. In the first round of the 1939/40 matches, on 20 August 1939, on the Cytadela's pitch in Lviv, the rival of the white and blue players was Polonia from Przemyśl. After nervous and brutal match, the hosts achieved a 3-2 win.
On Sunday, 27 August 1939, 2,000 spectators gathered in Lviv to watch Hasmonea vs Pogoń reserves. The Jewish players had a particularly bad day, especially the attack formation. However, the pace of the match was very lively, and with every minute of the second half, Hasmonea was gaining an advantage. The first goal was scored by Pinus in 82nd minute, using a pass from Silber. In the 85th minute, Silber centred and Reinhold placed the ball in the net with a beautiful volley. Finally, in the 88th minute, Pinus broke through from the centre of the pitch and forced the opponents' goalkeeper to surrender for the third time.The white and blue in their last league match, which ended with a 3-0 win, appeared in the following line-up: Blatt – Hönig, Friedman – Katz, Horowitz, Rothstein – Reinhold, Reiss, Relles, Pinus, Silber.In the same edition of ‘Chwila’ which included an account of the above-mentioned match, there was also a call from the Hasmonea board, appealing to all club members to volunteer for digging anti-aircraft ditches.
The atmosphere of the coming war was getting more and more intense.The next rounds were to take place on 8 and 10 September 1939. On the first round, Hasmonea was to take a break, and two days later its rival was to be the local Strzelec. However, on 1 September, football, like hundreds of other daily activities, became irrelevant in the presence of deadly threat posed by German aggression. The world of the Second Polish Republic was irretrievably destroyed.All quotes are from Wydawnictwo jubileuszowe Ż.K.S. Hasmonea Lwów 1908-1933.
- Gaszyński P., Zanim powstała liga. Almanach rozgrywek piłkarskich w Polsce w latach 1919-1926, v. I, sezon 1919, Kraków 2019.
- Gaszyński P., Zanim powstała liga. Almanach rozgrywek piłkarskich w Polsce w latach 1919-1926, v. II, sezon 1920, Kraków 2022.
- Gaszyński P., Zanim powstała liga. Almanach rozgrywek piłkarskich w Polsce w latach 1919-1926. v, III, sezon 1921, Kraków 2017.
- Gowarzewski A., Encyklopedia Piłkarska FUJI – Kolekcja Klubów, tom 4: Lwów i Wilno w ekstraklasie. Dzieje polskiego futbolu kresowego, Katowice, 1997
- Jednodniówka Ż.K.S. Hasmonea we Lwowie,Lwów 1938.
- Księga pamiątkowa poświęcona 35-leciu działalności Lwowskiego Klubu Sportowego Pogoń 1904-1939,Lwów 1939.
- Miatkowski J., Owsiański J., Rocznik 1927. Ten pierwszy sezon ligowy. (seria: Polska Liga Piłki Nożnej), Poznań 2022.
- Miatkowski J., Owsiański J., Rocznik 1928. Wisła po raz drugi (seria: Polska Liga Piłki Nożnej), Poznań 2018.
- Wydawnictwo jubileuszowe Ż.K.S. Hasmonea Lwów 1908-1933,Lwów 1933.
- ‘Chwila’ (Lwów) 1919-1939
- ‘Gazeta Poranna’ (1910-1939)
- ‘Ilustrowany Kurier Codzienny,’ Kraków 1910-1939
- ‘Nowy Dziennik,’ Kraków 1918-1939
- ‘Przegląd Sportowy,’ Kraków/Warsaw 1921-1939
- ‘Raz Dwa Trzy,’ Kraków 1931-1936
- ‘Słowo Polskie,’ Lwów 1908-1939
- ‘Sport,’ Lwów 1922-1927
- ‘Tygodnik Sportowy,’ Kraków 1921-1925
- ‘Wiadomości Sportowe,’ Kraków 1922-1923
- ‘Wiek Nowy,’ Lwów 1908-1939
- [1.1] All quotes are from the publication: Wydawnictwo jubileuszowe Ż.K.S. Hasmonea Lwów 1908-1933, Lwów 1933 [online] http://dlibra.umcs.lublin.pl/dlibra/publication/31609/edition/28598/content [access: 4 November 2022