NIF Founds New Jewish-Arab Football Academy in Jerusalem
On March 19th, the Hapoel Katamon team, the Football Academy of East Jerusalem, and NIF’s Kick It Out initiative jointly launched a new football academy for Jewish and Arab boys in Jerusalem. The academy launched on Thursday as part of a celebration for the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
About 100 kids from football teams in West and East Jerusalem crowded together on the field. Although it was only their third time meeting, genuine connections were already forming. In a city like Jerusalem that is so divided, it was heartwarming.
The “Team of Equals” is bringing together boys – aged 10-12 – from neighborhoods across the city. The goal of the initiative is to introduce Jewish children from West Jerusalem to Arab children from East Jerusalem in order to combat the division and hostility between them and to advance a shared life in the city.
Four players from the professional football team Hapoel Katamon, including star player Aviram Baruchyan, the professional manager of the club, and trainers from the Football Academy in East Jerusalem, came to greet the young players and assist with their training.
The response so far has been incredible. We’ve been inundated with requests from parents in neighborhoods around the city who want their children to participate, and the social media response has been uplifting as well.
At the end of the first day, we gave each child a “Respect” football donated by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA). At first they didn’t understand, then got very excited as they realised we were giving the balls to them to keep. “Is it really mine?” one of the children asked.