On Monday 23rd August 2011, the AFL Peace team, a combined AFL team of Israeli’s and Palestinians were the guests of Deloitte Consulting, Bourke St, Melbourne.
The dinner was in honour of the teams trip to Australia and also an opportune time to thank the major sponsors of the tour (Integrated, VISY, Commonwealth Bank) without which the team could not have entered the tournament. It was their first function in Melbourne after spending a big week in Sydney, which included training, playing and enjoying some aspects of the night life in Kings Cross.
The team has ofcourse changed a lot in personnel, organization and team strategy since their first trip in 2008. There are 9 former players on the tour in 2011 with the rest of the team being newly recruited. A substantial lead up and more organized training with Robert ‘Dipper’ Diperdomenico, Jason Saddington and Brett Kirk in Israel has led to a much stronger team. The recruitment drive has included bigger bodies and sportspeople to make sure that the team is not physically intimidated coming into ICC2011.
The team have come with same spirit as 2008, with the usual singing, drumming, and dancing and media hype wherever they go. They are living up to it as well, by trouncing China in Sydney by 80 points.
Talking with players at the evening, there is evidence that there have been open forums in which players from both sides have had refreshing and valuable politically incorrect discussions about the state of the conflict, whilst travelling and playing together.
Last week, a bomb attack on the Egyptian/Israeli borders cost eight Israeli’s their lives and the retaliation in Gaza caused multiple causalities amongst the Palestinians. The team was able to have a discussion, put aside their differences and rally together to have one of the best training sessions of the tour and in Australia. This is the kind of perfect peace practice that changes lives.
The evening at Deloitte was another forum where leaders from both sides told significant stories of initial bias towards the other side, which has been overcome by close contact and education about the ‘enemy’.
Prominent Australian writer Martin Flanagan, framed his own story of the Peace team with an Australian perspective concentrating on his fathers experience of being with Sir Weary Dunlop in a Japanese POW camp. It centred on the overcoming of hatred of the enemy and learning to see the human being.
This seems to be one of the number one lessons to be grasped out of the Peace Team struggles and triumphs. It leads to the new discourse that seeing the human being as being human not as advisories , thus an avenue towards peace.
The Peace team is playing against France Wednesday 24th, 2011 at Royal Park North starting at 11:00am. Come down and beat a drum for the Peace team!