Jose Mourinho, Dikembe Mutombo at Peres Centre event promoting peacebuilding through sport

November 19, 2020 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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Legendary football manager Jose Mourinho and NBA legend Dikembe Mutombo were among the global figures who joined a unique forum exploring the role of sport in peacebuilding and social justice.

Jose Mourinho

The Mini Mondial event is the annual culmination of the Peres Centre for Peace and Innovation’s sports programs for young people, which was this year moved online due to the Corona pandemic.

For over a decade, the Peres Centre’s Mini Mondial has taken the form of an annual World Cup themed tournament, attended each year by 1,000 boys and girls, Jews and Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians, all participants in the Centre’s sports programs. Each year, they are joined by representatives from foreign embassies and players from the Israeli Premier League.

In light of the new reality, complexity and restrictions brought by the Corona pandemic, this year’s event took the form of a virtual conference, held online yesterday. More than 400 people took part in the event, which in keeping with the ethos of the Mini Mondial, explored the role of sport in removing barriers to peacebuilding and social justice across the Middle East and globally.

Panels included professionals from Israel, Jordan and Iraq, who shared their successes and learnings from taking a sport-based approach towards conflict resolution in the Middle East. A separate panel provided a global perspective, bringing together top professionals and academics who examined different approaches and methodologies from across the world for advancing peace and social justice through sport.

Tottenham Hotspur Head Coach, Jose Mourinho recalled his visit to Israel in 2005, during which he visited the Peres Centre’s sports programs and met the Center’s founder Shimon Peres. Mourinho said, The values of Shimon Peres are amazing – equality, sport, to bring people together, to make children feel love and togetherness. I am so, so proud to belong to it.

He added: “Sport is a very, very important social vehicle. It is a wonderful thing, this Peres Center program, for children of different nationalities, different religions and to bring them together and make them feel the equality, the love and the passion and the togetherness.”

Referring to the impact that leaders in sport can make, NBA Global Ambassador Dikembe Mutombo said “I think because we have been admired by so many, we have the key to build a bridge to our society and to make a big difference. Sport is an international language.”

Tami Hay-Sagiv, Director, Education for Peace and Innovation Department, Peres Centre for Peace and Innovation commented, “At the Peres Centre for Peace and Innovation, we believe that football is a positive tool for connecting people. The Centre’s projects have been operating for more than eighteen years, connecting boys and girls across the country. Today’s conference provided a platform for a variety of organizations from across the Middle East with shared values ​​and activities in this area. In an era in which a new Middle East is being built, there is no doubt that sport has a role to play in spreading the message of unity across borders and sectors.”

The Mini Mondial event took place in partnership and with the support of the US Embassy in Israel, the Israel Football Association, the SOL Foundation, Mega Sport and the international sports body Beyond Sport.

Deputy Head of Mission at the US Embassy in Israel, Jonathan Schreier told the event, Sports allow us to learn and experience leadership, teamwork, respect and resilience. I think that all of the participants here will agree that sports also have the power to bring us together, across borders, cultures and faiths to build understanding and promote peace.”

President of the Israel Football Association, Oren Hasson stated: “Our long-standing cooperation with the Peres Centre for Peace and Innovation is based on the twin pillars of football and education. The significant investment we make in young people is out of a complete belief that down the road they will become leaders and exemplary citizens, both on the playing field and in everyday life.”

Prior to today’s event, the Peres Centre launched a viral campaign on the social network TikTok, to connect youth in Israel and around the world, promoting sport as a meaningful educational tool. Using the hashtags #1goal4peace and #minimondial2020, participants ‘played’ against the professional footballers and online influencers who joined the campaign. They included Israel international footballers Maor Buzaglo, Manor Solomon and Lee Falkon. The campaign, in Hebrew, Arabic and English attracted 700,000 views in a single week.

The Peres Centre’s Peace World Cup, known as the Mini Mondial, is the annual culmination of the Center’s sports programs. These programs, which have run for over 18 years, have included more than 22,500 boys and girls, Israeli and Palestinian, Jewish and Arab. They have taken part in peace education activities, to convey a unified message of football against violence and racism.

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