As part of the Playing for Peace programme team we worked with partners and divided communities throughout Israel and Jordan to build an appreciation of the power of sport to bring about positive and non-violent encounters.
The project prioritised key target groups:
- Young people from communities in Israel and Jordan
- Community leaders and sport specialists from within associated communities and local authorities
- Staff and students at UK and German universities
- Arab and Jewish communities, as well as the wider public in Israel and communities in north-west Jordan.
The project was made possible through collaboration with a broad set of valued partners:
- The University of Brighton – who provided professional expertise for the values-based football coaching model
- Chelsea School for Sport, University of Brighton and Deutsche SportHochSchule – who provided volunteer teacher trainee coaches to work alongside local Arab and Jewish coaches from the Israel Sports Authority
- The Israel Sports Authority – who provided valuable community links and co-ordination of activities.
Evidence suggests that trust and confidence were built amongst the communities involved, while feedback suggests the experience was positive for participants and their families.
Different ways to engage
In the final year of the project around 1,000 children took part from 34 Arab and Jewish communities, including Bedouin villages in the south of Israel. A specially-designed parallel track was created to enable girls to participate within traditional norms.
Over 200 cross-community coaches from Israel and Jordan attended training events in the UK and Germany. These individuals created the basis of a national network of coaches that continues to use the project methodologies and activity manuals.
Popular annual tournaments became the focal point for the project and were organised to bring all participants together.
A total of 100 coaches, sports professionals and non-governmental organisations working in the co-existence sector attended a final conference to disseminate lessons learned.
Incidents of sectarian violence during the life of the project did not affect the willingness of communities to be involved in project activities. In fact, evidence suggests that continuing activities have occurred between different communities outside of the programme, and relationships have been formed as a result.
A number of measures have been taken to ensure the lasting impact of the programme. In Israel, a national network has been formalised under the leadership of Israel’s Sports Authority. Communities now send representatives to a panel who make decisions and plan activities. The project has been rebranded as ‘Sport 4 Life’ and communities have now fully embraced the concept and have adapted the project’s methodology for a number of different sports and activities. A mentoring relationship will be maintained with the EU volunteer coaches.
Inspired by Playing for Peace, many of the communities involved are now encouraged to participate in other cross-community sports programmes.
In Jordan, the national network was formalised under the guise of the Irbid Centre for Football Training. The group has decided to continue to communicate with Israel through Sport 4 Life. The Irbid Centre for Football Training is also currently partnered with Sports Unites to provide training and mentoring.
The University of Brighton is disseminating the experience from the programme through activities based on the Playing for Peace model in Northern Ireland and South Africa.
‘One of the great things about Playing for Peace is the dynamic created in a group where half the children are Arab, half are Jewish, one of the coaches is Arab, one is Jewish and there is a third coach from overseas who comes without the baggage and stereotypes of living in Israel.’
Coach, Eli Fractovnic.