Reviving a community through soccer

Training field sponsored by Arsenal to open in Beersheba today.

Maccabi TA soccer 248.88 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Maccabi TA soccer 248.88
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Hopes are high in Beersheba over the new Arsenal-sponsored soccer field that will be opening to the public on Thursday. "It is going to change the image of the city," said Dan Hart, CEO of Tnufa for a Strong Israel, the organization which will run a program for impoverished youngsters to learn soccer on the new field. The Arsenal field, named after the 120-year old British soccer club, was constructed with the help of the UK branch of JNF as part of the Otzma program, which aims to improve conditions in Israel's downtrodden communities. The field will be officially opened by Beersheba mayor Yaakov Terner and UK Ambassador Tom Phillips. "The pitch is one component to upgrade the services for the citizens," Hart said. But the field won't just be a place where kids can come and kick a ball around, they will be learning as well. Arsenal will host a training program for gap year students and foreign-born volunteers in the autumn, to teach them how to teach soccer to local youngsters. The field opening and training program extends the club's influence in Israel. Arsenal has already donated £50,000 to soccer programs in the Galilee and other soccer schools in Israel and has lent their brand name to the Beersheba field free of charge. A total of 32 Israelis and 16 foreign volunteers will be coming to teach at the facility But children in Beersheba won't be given a free pass into the program. Participants are expected to stay out of trouble with the police and do well in school. "I don't care what they did in their past," Hart said, opening the program to all kids who follow these guidelines. But even though participants will have to hold to a strict behavioral policy, they can rest assured their soccer skills will not hold them back. "[There are] no football qualifications whatsoever," Hart added.