June 15, 2017
But it’s all the more remarkable given his involvement at youth level, first with Stamford-Hill based Victoria Community Centre, Oakwood and then HMH is all on a volunteer basis.
“There’s been more good days than bad days,” said Nick, 65.
“It must be in my blood. It’s all I’ve ever known. To provide a platform for Jewish players at all levels is important to me. My two sons, Oli and Tim, played and hopefully that tradition will continue down the years.”
Along with MGBSFL chairman David Woolf and Temple Fortune chairman Nigel Kyte, Sonenfield is among the longest-serving members of Jewish football.
He began his coaching in 1977 with Victoria Community Centre, famous for wearing an all-brown kit. As a volunteer youth leader, he met the love of his life, Renee, a senior youth leader, and the pair later married.
Nine years later, Sonenfield moved to current MGBSFL Premier League champions Oakwood into the Maccabi League. Since 1996 Nick has been in charge of HMH, first as a manager and more recently as chairman.
The club have more than 500 players on their books; from six-year-olds up to masters level — proving that Jewish football is alive and well despite numbers dwindling in recent years.
He said: “It has declined in the last 20 years and there’s no getting away with that. Premier League football being played on a Sunday doesn’t help. And kids starting at under-six level I believe is another reason. I think they should start at under-nine level. We find by the time they are 15 or 16 they have had enough and have developed other interests.
“And with the Football Association having stopped tables being printed, and playing at non-competitive level, it has all contributed to numbers falling.”
Still, HMH remains in a healthy state in no small part to the hours of tireless work behind the scenes of father-of-four Nick, who lives in Temple Fortune with Renee.
He added: “I’m very lucky that Renee is so supportive. We have a full-time secretary at the club but there’s a lot of work on the admin side.
“I just enjoy it. We make sure all young players, boys and girls of all different levels, are given a platform to play. It’s about them enjoying themselves.
“That’s always been my motto. Don’t get me wrong, some Jewish parents are not always easy to deal with. But I’ve done this job for long enough now to know how to handle them.”
Sonenfield is an insurance broker by trade but his real investment through the years, in time and passion, has been in Jewish football.
His wish is for his beloved Leyton Orient to find a new owner and he was relieved the east London club’s recent High Court winding-up order was dismissed.
But whatever Orient’s fate, Sonenfield will be back putting in the unpaid hours next season — all for the good of HMH.
“My dad is a humble guy,” said youngest son Oli, 24.
“He doesn’t like a fuss. That goes back to his playing days when he once broke his leg, carried on playing and drove himself to the hospital after the full-time whistle.”
It appears even after almost 50 years, that dedication to the cause has not wavered.