Peres Centre’s Mini World Cup

May 11, 2016 Agencies
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With racism and violence in football stadiums rampant around the world the Peres Center for Peace’s “Mini Mondial for Peace” soccer tournament has taken place in Herzliya.

Peres blows the whistle  Pic: Efrat Saar

Peres blows the whistle Pic: Efrat Saar

The event opened with two unique exhibition games, the first featuring Ambassadors from around the world and mayors from across Israel playing against a team of young Arab and Jewish, Israeli and Palestinian participants from the “Twinned Peace Sports Schools” program.

A second exhibition match featured Israeli Premier League all-star football players who played together with the Israeli and Palestinian young footballers. The Peres Center’s “Twinned Peace Sports Schools” program promotes co-existence between youths throughout Israel and the West Bank. Ambassadors, Mayors, professional footballers, and the young participants came together to promote a message of peace and against the recent violence and racism that has taken place in football stadiums around the world.

At a briefing in the locker room with the professional all-star players prior to the start of the event Peres said: “I am so happy that you have joined us in playing for peace. We must end the recent negativity occurring on the pitch. You come here today to not only play with your feet, but also with your soul.”

Peres took to the pitch to blow the whistle to start the opening game and said: “Thank you for coming here to make a statement against racism and violence. Your presence here along with Israeli and Palestinian children sends a clear message against racism and violence and for the promotion of peace through sports. We must draw a clear line on the field and in life. Violence and racism on the football pitch affects our children- so you must lead by example. I am proud that, every week, Israelis and Palestinians come together to play football and prove that it is possible.

At the “Mini Mondial” opening ceremony, the Peres Center held a moving tribute to the legendary football player Johan Cruyff, who passed away this year. Cruyff was a staunch proponent of education for coexistence and tolerance through football in Israel for many years and was a strong supporter of the Peres Center’s Twinned Peace Sports Schools project. Peres and several of the young participants – Arab and Jewish – presented his son, Jordi Cruyff, with an honorary jersey with number 14 on the back, which was his father’s number, and the professional all-star players wore orange jerseys in his memory.

The “Ambassador Peace Team” players included: Ambassadors from Albania and Austria, and senior diplomats from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the United States, Italy, France, and Australia. They were joined by Mayors and Heads of regional councils including: the Msayors of Acre, Herzliya, and Kfar Saba, and the heads of Yoav Regional Council, Sha’ar Hanegev, Abu Ghosh, Hof HaSharon, and Shibli.

The Israeli Premier Football League players included: Yossi Benayoun, Ahmed Abed, Avihai Yadin, Gal, Dan Aybinder, Yuval Spungin, Guy Haimov, Pedro Joaquín Galván, Hisham Kiwan, Dai Saba, Haiim Margishvili, Omar Padida, Stav Pinish, Zion Tsemach, Ahmed Kasumi, Naor Peser, Dor Alov, Shai Constantine, Ohad Cohen, Omar Padida.

Herzliya Mayor Moshe Fadlon said: “There is nothing like sport and football to connect people and religions and to transcend differences of opinion. This is the third year we have hosted the “Mini Mondial for Peace”, the Peres Center for Peace, and President Peres, and we are proud of your vision.”

Ofer Eini, Chair of the Israeli Football Association said: “If we, the adults, can act like these young football players, together we can conquer racism and violence, and we will have a better future for ourselves and with our neighbors”.

The “Mini Mondial for Peace” is the annual peak event of the Peres Center for Peace’s “Twinned Peace Sports Schools” program in which Jewish and Arab, Israeli and Palestinian children meet on the football field. Throughout this project the children meet one another, train together, learn each other’s language, and play football together on mixed teams. This project, which has been running for 14 years, brings together hundreds of children from different communities all over the country every year. To date, over 20,000 children have participated in this project.

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