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Versatility Serves Lazarus Well : Former CSUN Star Drew on Skills in Maccabiah Games

<i> Special to The Times </i>

Not possessed of just one dominating skill, Steve Lazarus became an All-American soccer player at Cal State Northridge by combining a little of this and a little of that.

So it was no surprise that Lazarus excelled recently in a little-known game called mini-football, which combines elements of soccer, basketball and team handball.

Lazarus, 22, returned this week from Tel Aviv after helping a team from Canada to a seventh-place finish in mini-football at the Maccabiah Games--a quadrennial event sometimes called the Jewish Olympics.

“There were 50,000 people in the stadium for the opening ceremonies,” said Lazarus, who was born in Montreal and grew up in Saugus. “It was like the Olympics. It was pretty wild.”

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So is mini-football, which is played indoors on a wood or clay surface about the size of a basketball court. Unlike indoor soccer, however, there are no boards or walls around the court, only lines on the floor.

Mini-football players use only their feet and heads to advance the ball, which is slightly smaller than a soccer ball. Teams consist of four field players and a goalkeeper, who protects a net six feet wide and six feet high.

“I had never even played indoor soccer so it took me a while to get the hang of things,” Lazarus said. “The game can be very fast.”

Lazarus, who scored 10 goals and had seven assists last season for Northridge, had intended to try out for the team that represented the United States in the traditional outdoor soccer competition at the Maccabiah Games.

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But at the urging of his father, Lazarus decided instead to represent Canada, unaware that he would be playing a game he had never heard of.

“The coach had told me it was mini-soccer and tried to explain it,” Lazarus recalled, “but I still brought my outdoor cleats and flats.”

In April, Lazarus attended tryouts in Toronto and returned to Canada for two-a-day workouts in June before departing for Israel.

Canada, Spain, Gibraltar and Israel composed one of the four brackets in the 16-team competition.

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The Canadians defeated Spain, 1-0, in their first match then lost 5-0 to Israel, which featured several professional players.

Lazarus scored his first goals of the competition in the next match against Gibraltar, knocking in five during an 8-2 win.

In a 4-3, double-overtime loss to Mexico in the quarterfinals, Lazarus scored with 1:30 left in regulation to send the game into overtime.

Against the Soviet Union, which was competing in the Maccabiah Games for the first time, Lazarus scored a goal during a 4-3 loss. He added two more in a 9-2 victory over Yugoslavia that gave the Canadians seventh place.

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Lazarus completed his collegiate eligibility last season. He plans to finish his degree in business administration this year.

“If I get the opportunity to play soccer somewhere, I’d definitely consider it,” Lazarus said. “If not, I’m looking forward to returning to the Maccabiah Games in four years.”


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