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‘He would be so proud’: The heartbreaking tragedy behind teen’s Maccabi journey

Posted: 19-Mar-2019 by PanAm Games 2019

May 29, 2016 changed everything in the lives of the Shvartsman family.

That morning started out like many others, as 12-year-old Mark Shvartsman assumed his position in midfield for his weekly football match, cheered on from the sideline by his number one fan – dad Albert.

His mother Marina had stayed home for a relaxing sleep-in, steering clear of a busy Dendy Park precinct in the Melbourne suburb of Brighton that was chockfull of youthful sporting matches just like the one her son was participating in.

But all at once they came to a sudden stop.

Mark Shvartsman controls a ball at a training session

“He started feeling bad and he went to the coach and said he’s not feeling well and then he just collapsed,” Marina said.

“…there were lots of other games on the field and it was so many people, everything had stopped. They called to the ambulance and one of the mums called me. By the time I came the ambulance was still working trying to restart the heart, trying to do everything but they couldn’t do anything.”

Albert Shvartsman, a lifelong football lover and diehard Barcelona fan, passed away then and there at the scene of his son’s match from complications relating to Hepatitis C - a disease he had contracted in his youth.

As the three-year anniversary of the tragedy approaches, Mark prepares to go on his first ever international football trip as a valued member of an Australian team heading to the Maccabi Pan-American Games in Mexico City in June.

His mother is certain, his late father would be so very proud.

A brave Mark returned to training and played one or two games a few weeks after his father’s passing. But shortly after, his team was scheduled to play a match at the ground on which the tragedy had occurred, and it was simply too much for him.

At the last moment, he decided against it.

“Everything happened when he was there, he was watching,” Marina said.

"After, he was shocked, so he didn’t play. He stopped playing, he couldn’t come back to the game because everything reminded him of what happened."

Mark took some time away from the game, having surgery on an injury before his love of the game drew him back to the sport. However, with her son understandably unwilling to return to the same club, Marina realised a problem.

“My husband was always organising and drawing Mark to the team,” Marina said.

“I didn’t know how to apply to those teams and which club to go, because he didn’t want to go back to Brighton obviously. So, we missed a whole year, and then he came back again the following year. That’s when he joined the [Maccabi FC Caulfield] Colts.”

Having previously played with Maccabi as a junior, Mark returned to the club last year to play alongside school friends. And in doing so, he rediscovered his love of the world game. 

Since re-joining, the teen has overcome his fears and is enjoying a new lease on life within the sport that was once unfortunately tied to a horrific family tragedy. 

The club took him away to Sydney, winning a tournament there before he was selected to head to Mexico with many of his fellow clubmates.

The Australian outfit, the majority of whom have played together with the Maccabi side for over three years, is training hard under coach Nathan Maiorana as they come together to prepare to represent their country in Mexico in July.

Back Row: Akiva Fox, Saul Almeleh, Daniel Rosenberg, Maor Goichman, Corey Berman, Mark Shvartsman, Chase Alfasi, Kovi New, Oliver Platus
Front Row: Ben Goldhirsch, Ben Rosham, Joel Parasol, Eden Cohen, Amiel Selzer, Harry Levy, Mitchell Langer, Oscar Schyer
Absent: Joseph Feldman and Gilad Nagar

For Mark, it’s another opportunity to continue his father’s love of the game. 

In the three years since, the now 15-year-old has only once visited the final resting place of his father – the day of his funeral. But as he said farewell, Mark left something very special to sit by his side.

“When Mark had just started playing he won an MVP award,” Marina said.

“So, on the day of the funeral, he decided to leave it with his father.”

Maccabi Victoria Sports Foundation would like to thank Mark Shvartsman’s family for sharing their story and for recognising the Maccabi Victoria Sports Foundation contribution to Mark’s participation at the Pan American Games in Mexico. The MVSF is proud to be a part of fulfilling Mark’s dream. One of MVSF’s missions is to assist any Jewish Child who would like to be part of Maccabi and is unable to do so due to financial constraints.