Peace Team in Melbourne

August 24, 2011 by Ashley Shenker
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The AFL Peres Peace Team, made up of aspiring football players from Israel and Palestine, has arrived in Melbourne, continuing their involvement in the 2011 AFL International Cup.

Listen to the coach

In a warm up for their upcoming game against France, the Peace Team joined up with the Reclink Victoria side (a group of men and women with troubled pasts) at Gary Smorgon Oval at Albert Park, where they trained together and played a short scratch match.

Up there

The stories behind both sides are inspirational, and it was a feast for the eyes as the two teams took to the same field to fine tune their football skills. Peace Team Coach, former AFL Legend Robert ‘Dipper’ DiPierdomenico led the training session, with help from ex-Carlton and Sydney player Jason Saddington. However, it became serious when the first whistle was blown as both coaches were looking to develop the team’s skills and tactics in preparation for the game against France.

DiPierdomenico commented after the game, “It’s great to play a team with the same battles as our boys. They’ve all had hard things to overcome and it’s great to see that football can bring them all together.”

He took control of the Peace Team for the International Cup in 2008, and though he did admit that the team is “wearing me out”, he is proud of their effort and the players’ development over the years. “I just want them to respect the game and get respect back. The amount of publicity they’ve had is terrific and they’ll go back home very proud,” he said.

Star player Yonatan Belik has embraced the opportunity to play Aussie Rules and the impact that DiPierdomenico, who played 240 games with Hawthorn, has had on the side. He said, “He lifts us all and gives a lot of insight into the game. He takes it very seriously and wants us to do the same, but he puts his heart in to and we try our best for him.”

Belik, who has lived in Israel his whole life, was born to two Australian parents and has always had a love for the game. “It’s changed my view on everything, especially on politics and on life, and I can understand people’s stories. It’s been the best thing I’ve ever done”, he told.

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