Muslim and Jewish communities take to the oval

September 24, 2021 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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The partnership between Richmond Football Club, Maccabi Victoria, Bachar Houli Foundation, Henry Jolson Pathways Program and the MCC Foundation has launched its Interfaith Through Sport Program.

Sport has the power to change the world, and the program, expanding on from the inaugural Jolson/Houli Unity Cup in 2019, will celebrate the Jewish and Muslim communities coming together as one through football.

The annual Jolson/Houli Unity Cup, created as a legacy of the AFL Peace Team – celebrates the Jewish and Muslim community’s contribution to and participation in the great game of Aussie Rules.

The match features players from the Bachar Houli Academy, a Richmond-based program supporting young footballers from a Muslim background, and the Jewish-based Henry Jolson, Maccabi, Ajax, community team.

The expanded Interfaith Program will see the two community groups focus on interfaith dialogue, community engagement and education through a series of touchpoints. Plans are in place to develop a documentary and a school educational program highlighting sport and the capacity it has to build a powerful bridge between communities.

The annual match between the two teams will be the highlight of the program while a ‘Unity Team’ consisting of 11 players from both sides will also be selected to play a match against an Indigenous combined team.

The Unity Cup has been named after Richmond triple premiership player Bachar Houli, a practising Muslim, and the late Henry Jolson, a Jewish immigrant and former Western Bulldogs board member and premiership player at the AJAX Football Club.

Houli said the intention of the program was around unity and harmony.

“It is a great opportunity for young men from different backgrounds to come together and enjoy the game that everyone loves in this country, being football,” he said.

“All participants will be given a fantastic chance to showcase their skills, but more importantly to come together as one as part of this program.”

Maccabi Victorian President Brian Swersky said he was proud to partner with Richmond Football Club, the Jolson Family and the Houli Foundation. “The important message of unity and understanding between faiths is no better expressed than through hard sporting competition played fairly and in good spirit. Acceptance, understanding and tolerance are the key messages for our communities and the broader Australian community”

As a proud partner, the Melbourne Cricket Club has committed to hosting the game. The 2021 edition however will be played later in the year at the Swinburne Centre, Punt Road Oval.

The clash had originally been slated for September 26 at the MCG, before COVID-19 restrictions saw the event moved.

Bachar Houli Academy claimed the inaugural cup, prevailing by a narrow 13-points at the MCG. Players from both sides had the opportunity to bond through joint-training sessions in the lead-up to the game and a post-match function.

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