They say that wars should be fought on the football field where, other than pride, no-one really gets hurt. There is a lot of merit in that idea, as has been proven over and over. Even during the 1st and 2nd World Wars, both the Allies and Germans were reported to have put down their arms for a game of soccer. This theory is now being practised again…
In early 2013 a Muslim/Jewish team of Aussie Rules footballers calling themselves MULU, participated in the Melbourne Multicultural Unity Cup. Being an interfaith group, there were games played by both men and women. The success of this event was overwhelming with more in the pipeline.
Another big Jewish/Muslim soccer event was held earlier this year in Jerusalem. The amalgamation of teams from the Arab neighbourhood of Beit Safafa and Jewish neighbourhood of Katamon joined forces to play the round ball. This was mainly a children’s event that attracted over 100 kids aged under 12 years.
Under the banner of “Kicking out Racism and Violence”, this hugely successful event culminated in Jewish and Arab kids getting to know each other. The New Israel Fund (NIF) partnered Hapoel Katamon soccer team in formulating this historic occasion. Former player and now manager of Hapoel Katamon, Shai Aharon, spoke of his team’s formula for success: “Mutual respect, mutual values and community togetherness. The idea is that Arab children and Jewish children can get to know each other and realise that they can live together. It’s as simple as that” he said. More information on this historic event by Elhanan Miller can be found on www.timesofisrael.com/in-jerusalem-kids-get-a-kick-out-of-coexistence.
Meanwhile in Sydney Hector Martinez, former Argentinean football super-star, created the Bondi Football Academy which has been running since 1989. His academy has produced many Australian internationals including Tim Cahill and Massimo Luongo. “We concentrate on youngsters and welcome kids from all different backgrounds, Muslim, Catholic and Jewish. Soccer is a wonderful way to bring about a peaceful environment and what better place than on the football pitch” he said. Craig Foster has high praise for the philosophy of the academy, while David Hill, former soccer head in Australia, talks of how the kids become memorised by the approach. More information from www.bondifootball.com
While football is a wonderful way for Jewish and Muslim kids to get together, there is another formula brewing: Sailing. Local residents David Siegel, a Jew from Iowa, and Metine Ülker, a Muslim from Turkey, have teamed up to form an enterprise called “A Couple of People”. Their goal is to replicate their friendship by bringing together young Jews and Muslims living in Australia to meet with each other and share experiences in a comfortable environment like sailing and surfing.
David said: “The organisation is not about taking sides or lobbying – it is just about old fashion connections and understanding. The program is designed to take action and allow each person to bring their own stories that will lead to a better understanding and hopefully lifelong friendships.” And what better place than on our lovely Sydney harbour. Details from www.acoupleofpeople.org