At a pre-match ceremony before the Israeli State Cup Final, thousands of excited soccer fans watched 300 Jewish and Arab children hold hands around the field. The event was organized by New Israel Fund’s Kick it Out program, which promotes shared society and combats racism. The stadium was also adorned with NIF banners promoting the project. The State Cup Final is the biggest event on Israel’s sporting calendar and was attended by Israeli President Shimon Peres and many other dignitaries.
Also in attendance was Paul Elliott, the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Ambassador for Racism and Discrimination. UEFA, the umbrella organization of all European soccer federations, is a devoted supporter of Kick it Out Israel. Over the course of his two-day visit, Elliot was interviewed by the Israeli media and met with local soccer activists.
In an interview with TLV1 radio, Elliott said: “I was so pleased to see the work Kick it Out has done…It’s about partnership, about collaboration. We want to look at the positive and wonderful contribution Jews and Arabs have made…it’s about the sustainability of the good work.”
The next day, Kick it Out organized a special ”Showing Respect” tournament in the Palestinian Israeli town of Tayybe, featuring 250 of the children who had taken part in the previous night’s ceremony. At the end of the event, Elliott and members of the Israeli national team handed out special ‘Respect’ balls, which had been donated by UEFA to NIF.
Famous sports broadcaster and member of NIF’s International Council Zohir Bahlul, who spoke at the event in Tayybe, said: “We see great importance in promoting shared society projects for Jews and Arabs, and we are also happy that UEFA has invested so much in the project’s success.”