On Wednesday, NIF’s Kick It Out (KIO), which utilizes soccer to address racism in Israeli society, organized a special event to mark FARE Football People Action Week. Throughout the week, communities from across Europe come together to fight discrimination. The first part of the KIO event was a panel discussion featuring prominent Jewish and Arab figures from the world of Israeli football and was moderated by two leading sports journalists.
The discussion focused on how to use soccer to combat racism and to promote shared living, with an emphasis on the role athletes should play to encourage tolerance. The discussion was extremely lively: one of the most controversial topics was whether or not Arab players should be expected to sing the national anthem. Most of the panelists – whether Jewish or Arab – said that it should be up to the individual. Israeli national team manager Elisha Levy said “We don’t force players to sing the anthem; everyone respects one another.”
The conference was widely covered in the Israeli media and was broadcast live on Israel’s leading sports website. Afterwards, there was a tournament at Hapoel Haifa’s Kiryat Stadium featuring six Jewish and Arab teams from around the country.