Israelis, Palestinians play Aussie football for peace

Combined Jewish-Arab 'Peace Team' from Peres Center for Peace practicing for Australia's International Football Cup.

May 21, 2011 19:22
2 minute read.
Former Australia Rules football champion Brett Kir

Football for Peace 311. (photo credit: courtesy)


Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analyses from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user uxperience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew, Ivrit
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Repor
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief

UPGRADE YOUR JPOST EXPERIENCE FOR 5$ PER MONTH Show me later Don't show it again

A different form of football was on display at Tel Aviv’s Park Hayarkon on Friday morning, when a combined Israeli-Palestinian team took on a group of Aussie expats in a game of Australian Rules.

The match was the first proper hit-out for the Peres Center’s “Peace Team” as they prepare to compete in the Australian Football League’s International Cup later this year. Only around half-a-dozen of the current team participated in the previous tournament three years ago, many are still learning how to play the game, and a language barrier restricts communication between teammates, but none of that stopped them from performing admirably on Friday.

Be the first to know - Join our Facebook page.

Israelis, Palestinians tackle issues on football field
Borderline views: Football escapism

Usually played between two teams of 18 men on an oval-shaped field larger than the average soccer pitch, Australian Rules football requires courage, speed, strength and good hand and foot skills. It is the most popular spectator sport in Australia - national league matches draw average attendances of around 40,000 - but the sport is still limited to only cult status abroad.

The Peace Team was the brainchild of Tanya Oziel, executive director of the Australian branch of the Peres Center, and James Demetriou, chair of non-profit Sports Without Borders and the brother of AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou, who together came up with the idea a few years ago of using Australian Rules football to form bridges between young Israelis and Palestinians.

As in 2008, the squad is comprised of equal numbers of Israelis and Palestinians, and its members include athletes with backgrounds in basketball, soccer and other sports.

Friday’s game was umpired by former champion footballer and now International Cup ambassador Brett Kirk, and despite the result – the expats snatched victory in the dying stages of the match - he said that he saw enough from the combined team to prove that the sport can play a positive role in bringing together people from both sides of the conflict.

"Sport, music and art are the universal languages and you don’t really need to be able to communicate to be able to play the game but it’s the medium that actually brings you together and that’s the wonderful thing about this,” he told The Jerusalem Post after the match.

“To think of what’s happening in this country at the moment, these guys, it takes a lot of courage to do what they’re doing. I’m sure they’ve probably got mates who don’t understand why they’re doing it, but the ripple effect can have a huge effect on so many people on so many other levels.”

Kirk, a practicing Buddhist, was known as one of the toughest players in the AFL in a decorated 12-year career with the Sydney Swans, during which he captained the team for five seasons and played in its 2005 premiership-winning team.

He said there was a groundswell of support for the Peace Team when it competed in Australia
last time - even though they lost most of their games – and added that he has no doubt the team will again attract its fair share of public attention when it takes on the world’s best in Melbourne and Sydney this August.

Related Content

August 31, 2014
Rioting resumes throughout east Jerusalem Saturday night