The event was part of the celebrations to mark the UEFA Under-21 European Championships which began last week and is the most prestigious sporting event ever held in Israel.
Sunday's event took place at Maccabi Netanya’s training pitch in the central Israeli city. Players from both teams and representatives from the Israeli and English Football Associations participated, including (English) FA Chairman David Bernstein, IFA CEO Ori Shilo, and manager of the Israel Under-21 team, Guy Luzon.
David Bernstein commented, “What we have seen today is a long-term investment in the young generation and a focus on important values.”
Avi Luzon said, “We’ve gathered here today in order to spread the gospel of football for everyone.”
Advancing values of tolerance, equality and shared society (Photo: Orchopic)
Senior UEFA figures were also in attendance, including Patrick Gasser, who heads UEFA’s Football and Social Responsibility Unit.
The event emphasized the positive impact of football on Israeli society, focusing on a number of social initiatives which advance the values of tolerance, equality and shared society.
Participants included leading grass-roots activists who use football to break down barriers across Israeli society. These activists recently visited England as part of the "Football for All" delegation, where they were hosted by the English FA, and met with senior professionals within the game, sharing ideas on how to combat racism and violence.
'Long-term investment in the young generation' (Photo: Orchopic)
During Sunday’s event, these activists presented their projects alongside the children who participate in them. The various projects include joint Jewish-Arab initiatives, activities in the Ethiopian-Israeli community and programs in isolated Israeli communities.
The highlight of the event was a "Football for All" tournament featuring children from each of the projects, which was run by top figures in Israeli football. They include Maccabi Netanya head coach Yossi Mizrachi, Hapoel Beersheba head coach Ran Ben Shimon, head coach of the Israel national youth team Alon Hazan, and Israeli football legend and IFA Ambassador to the Under-21 tournament, Avi Nimni.
The event was organized by the IFA as part of New Israel Fund’s "Kick Racism and Violence out of Football" project, which this year marks its 10th anniversary. The project dates back to 2003 when the FA partnered with the IFA to assist in the launch of a "Kick Racism Out campaign" for Israeli football to help combat racism and discrimination through the sport.
NIF Israel Chief Executive Rachel Liel commented during the event, “Football is much more than just a game. It is a mirror of Israeli society. NIF is delighted to have led the 'Kick Racism Out' project for the last 10 years alongside the IFA. In football, there is room for everyone."