The Israel Centre in conjunction with Partnership2Gether teamed with the Peres Centre for Peace to bring the second Co- Existence Soccer Delegation to South Africa in 2016.
All of the eight players were Israeli — four Muslim and four Jewish — and they came together as part of this co-existence initiative to play as a team, becoming good friends in the process.
The initiative aimed to build bridges and foster unity and peace between diverse communities by connecting young people from the Middle East and South Africa, and encouraging them to engage with and learn from each other through their shared passion: Soccer.
“We came here to draw inspiration from the way South Africa champions cultural diversity, and to inspire local communities by showing that it’s possible to overcome religious, cultural and political differences through sport”, says Dvir Zivan of The Peres Centre for Peace.
Peres Centre for Peace soccer coach Ranin Abu Shark explained how the interfaith team’s cultural differences haven’t stopped them from becoming close friends: “Half our team speaks Arabic, and the other half Hebrew, but they make themselves understood; everyone understands the language of sport”. she said. The tournament took place at Fives Futbol in Century City and was kindly hosted and sponsored by Fives Futbol, ISPS Handa and The Graham Beck Foundation. The interfaith Israeli delegation, Team Coexistence, played seven local u15 and u16 teams from schools around Cape Town including: Gardens Commercial High School, Sea Point High School; Herzlia High School; Sinenjongo High School (situated in Joe Slovo), The Centre for Science and Technology STEM school in Khayelitsha and community sports teams — Amandla EduFootball (a Safe-Hub initiative in Khayelitsha), and a Maccabi team.
In addition to the competitive Cup and Plate prizes, won by Gardens Commercial High and Amandla EduFootball respectively, sportsmanship and friendly play were also recognised. The best sportsmanship team prize was won by the Co-Existence team whilst a Sea Point High player took home best sportsman, individual. Best player was awarded to the young goalkeeper of Amandla EduFootball Ovayo Ludonga, who had this to say “I am so happy to be here! Our team came top of our tier, and we made new friends.”
After an exhilarating afternoon of soccer and camaraderie the teams came together for a stirring closing ceremony and prizegiving, before refuelling with boerewors rolls at a typically South African braai. “It is always inspiring to see when you put politics aside, how young people can find common ground and work together as a team and become friends,” says Shaliach Hagai Dagan of The Israel Centre.
In addition to the soccer tournament, the delegation were hosted by the Herzlia Middle School Zionist Committee, enjoyed several warm-up matches against Herzlia and Maccabi teams and toured Cape Town. The delegation learnt about the history of South Africa by touring District Six with a guide who had lived there and endured the forced removals himself. The eight Israeli teens joined an existing interfaith group and took part in a workshop facilitated by Marlene Silbert, Director of the Cape Town Interfaith Intercultural Twinning and Exchange Programme.
The Co-Existence Soccer Delegation and Tournament 2016 was a great success, impacting not only the Israelis or their local hosts but also the players and spectators at the tournament itself, this was undoubtedly an inspiring initiative.