In a country torn by conflicts and tensions, minifootball emerges as an unexpected source of good vibes. This month, the 3rd annual Israeli national championship brings together Muslims, Jews and Christians, conservatives and liberals, men and women, teenagers and grandpa’s. Because who doesn’t love to play?
Throughout November, some 2,000 amateur players from 186 teams are participating in the 3rd annual Israeli national minifootball championship. The tournament is backed by the Ministry of Culture and Sports, as well as the Toto (national sports betting council) and several other organizations and sponsors.
The project is run by the Israeli mini-football association (“Football State”). Matches are played without the help of referees, in an effort to promote conflict resolution and personal responsibility among players, with a zero-tolerance attitude towards violence and racism. No prizes are given, to ensure that all games are played “just for fun”.
As every year, the 2013 championship features teams and players from diverse, even conflicting backgrounds: Jews and Arabs, religious and secular, as well as die-hard fans of rival clubs – all play together on one mini-pitch, sometimes even cooperating in the same team.
“By participating in this championship, 2,000 players are expressing their commitment to the beautiful side of the game”, said Sports Minister Limor Livnat at the opening ceremony (pictured with the Israeli ladies under 19 team)
Israeli football has seen its share of racism and violence in recent years, but “in this tournament you will not witness violent acts or hear racist calls: only the sport will triumph” according to Minister Livnat.
Moran Gera, chairman of the Israeli mini-football association said: “We may have our differences outside the pitch, but while we play our goals are the same: to enjoy a good game, to show our skill and earn the respect of our teammates and rivals”.
This year, the organizers were honoured to have as their guest EMF Vice President Filip Juda of the Czech Republic. Mr Juda witnessed firsthand the unique atmosphere of the championship, which is set to conclude on the 28th of November.