In an effort to combat racism and violence in soccer stadiums around the world, Shimon Peres launched today the Peres Center for Peace’s “Mini Mondial for Peace” in Herzliya.
The event opened with two unique exhibition games, the first featuring Ambassadors from around the world and Mayors from across Israel playing against a team of young Arab and Jewish, Israeli and Palestinian participants from the “Twinned Peace Sports Schools” program. This was followed by a second exhibition match featuring Israeli Premier League all-star football players who played together with the Israeli and Palestinian young footballers. The Peres Center’s “Twinned Peace Sports Schools” program promotes co-existence between youths throughout Israel and the West Bank. Ambassadors, Mayors, professional footballers, and the young participants came together to promote a message of peace and against the recent violence and racism that has taken place in football stadiums around the world.
At a briefing in the locker room with the professional all-star players prior to the start of the event Peres said: “I am so happy that you have joined us in playing for peace. We must end the recent negativity occurring on the pitch. You come here today to not only play with your feet, but also with your soul.”
Peres took to the pitch and said: “Thank you for coming here to make a statement against racism and violence. Your presence here along with Israeli and Palestinian children sends a clear message against racism and violence and for the promotion of peace through sports. We must draw a clear line on the field and in life. Violence and racism on the football pitch affects our children- so you must lead by example. I am proud that, every week, Israelis and Palestinians come together to play football and prove that it is possible.”
At the “Mini Mondial” opening ceremony, the Peres Center held a moving tribute to the legendary football player Johan Cruyff, who passed away this year. Cruyff was a staunch proponent of education for coexistence and tolerance through football in Israel for many years and was a strong supporter of the Peres Center’s Twinned Peace Sports Schools project. Peres and several of the young participants – Arab and Jewish – presented his son, Jordi Cruyff, with an honorary jersey with number 14 on the back, which was his father’s number, and the professional all-star players wore orange jerseys in his memory.