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July 13, 2021 3:17 pm
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Chelsea FC to Use Soccer as ‘Connecting Bridge’ for Over 1,000 Arab and Jewish Kids in Israel

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

Chelsea FC Manager Emma Hayes and coaching staff playing with young footballers during the women’s team’s first visit to Israel. Photo: Chelsea FC

Arab and Jewish children across Israel will play soccer side by side under coaches from London’s storied Chelsea FC as part of an anti-discrimination and leadership training program to help break down barriers in the country.

The project will seek to bring together more than 1,000 Jewish and Arab children and young adults across Israel over the next year as part of a partnership between the Chelsea Foundation, the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation, and the Israeli Football Association (IFA). The aim of the new partnership is to further expand the Playing Fair, Leading Peace initiative, in place since 2016 to promote peace through soccer. Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich will fund the program as part of the Chelsea Foundation’s “Say No to Hate” campaign.

Bruce Buck, chairman of Chelsea FC, commented, “During our visit to Israel in 2019, we saw first-hand the power football can have in bringing together communities and breaking down barriers. We hope that this new initiative will empower children to harness the respect and fairness in football and use those values to promote greater tolerance, unity and inclusion in society.”

As part of the program’s “training the trainers” model, Chelsea’s professional coaching model — dedicated to promoting values of fair play, respect and discipline — will be integrated with the support of the club’s coaching staff. After their training, participants will work in mixed Jewish-Arab pairs to implement sport activities for schoolchildren from both communities.

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The partnership was developed following the Chelsea women’s team 2019 visit to Israel, when members took part in soccer and education workshops with Arab and Jewish girls to show how communication and teamwork can bring people together through sport.

“This groundbreaking collaboration is a testament to the partner’s belief in the power of football to be a connecting bridge on the pitch and everywhere,” remarked IFA President Oren Hasson. “No barrier, natural or artificial, will prevent the common future of us all in the field of football and in every other aspect in life.”

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