Arab-Jewish youth soccer team to play in Spain peace tourney

Israelis will compete with Arsenal soccer schools from France, Portugal and Spain in the first-annual Arsenal Iberian Trophy.

galilee united 224.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
galilee united 224.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
An Arab-Jewish youth soccer team from northern Israel will attend the first-annual Arsenal Iberian Trophy for Peace hosted in Spain this weekend by the English club. A select group of 13 to 14-year-old boys from the Arsenal In The Galilee soccer school and peace initiative will represent the organization in the tournament as Galilee United. The soccer school is supported by the Misgav Regional Council and brings together Arab, Christian, Jewish and Druze youth. Ken Jones, president of Arsenal Soccer Club Costa del Sol, organized the event in honor of Arsenal in the Galilee's efforts. "We want to support what Arsenal and the Misgav area of Galilee are trying to do," Jones told The Jerusalem Post. Jones said he hoped the tournament will raise the profile for the Galilee program and produce some positive PR for Israel. The Israelis will compete with Arsenal soccer schools from France, Portugal and Spain in the friendly tournament. Originally, Arsenal Soccer School Morocco was scheduled to play, but the team dropped out. The tournament will provide a rare chance for Arab and Jewish youth in the Galilee program to spend a prolonged amount of time together. During the rest of the soccer season, Jewish and Arab youth in twinned settlements and villages only meet once a month and during two to three program-wide tour naments. According to Shalom Liav, the project coordinator for Arsenal in the Galilee, annual international tournaments give team-members important time to break down barriers. "A lot of kids have preconceived ideas before they live sleep and play together," Liav said. "When it comes down to it, everyone's all the same. And, they realize that they're together, not against each other." Galilee United has 16 players, selected by merit, with at least one from each village or settlement. The players met last weekend for a three-day training camp at Kibbutz Kfar Blum to prepare for this weekend's games. Semifinals are scheduled for Saturday, with final on Sunday. Marrache & Co along with the Costa Del Sol regional council will sponsor the Arsenal tournament. It will be held in the southern coast of Spain, appropriately in a mixed neighborhood of Jews, Christians and Arabs that have historically lived in harmony.