In 2008 the Peace team was one of the stories of international success for AFL, where 13 Israeli’s and 13 Palestinians were brought together to play for peace at the 2008 AFL International cup. Now in 2011, 18 new players and 18 veterans have been brought together again in the effort to break down barriers and stereotypes. Beside the fight for mutual understanding, they have also been brought together in their attempts to master the game of footy.
The Peace team may not lead to any permanent solution in the Middle East conflict, but the introduction of football as last year will definitely build peaceful ties to the two sides in an opposing conflict as they come together to play as one.
Robert ‘Dipper’ Dipierdomenico is again taking the role of coach and visiting Israel to train the team in preparation in Israel. With better preparation compared to the frantic pace of 2008, football has been well and truly introduced and it is expected that the skills of the Peace Team will be much improved as they hit the field in August in Melbourne.
That said, it has again been difficult for members of the team to train. In a further positive development, not all team-building aspects were held in Israel, with Israeli players visiting Bethlehem for the first time. Dialogue has been an important part of these sessions, with moderate and controlled discussion of politics relating to the conflict.
As they visit our shores the team will have a hectic schedule including many outings with highlights being the great dinners and the Sydney Harbour bridge climb.
Food preparation was an issue three years earlier with many orthodox Jews and some Muslims unhappy with the food. The organizers are now well prepared, with catering ensuring no similar situation arises. The early games at the championship will be at the end of Ramadhan, something that caused problems in 2008 and again will be an issue in 2011, with energy levels undoubtedly lowering during the day because of the fast.
The trip will undoubtedly be a challenge of mutual understanding, compromise and tolerance, all good milestones on the path to peace.
Peace team facts
-The team will be competing in the second division of teams from developing countries
-There are eight players from the initial Peace team, the rest are newly appointed
-Daniel Belik brother of Yonatan is taking part and has spent a few days at the home of some of his Arab teammates, leading up to the event.
-South African/Australian immigrant, and original peace team member Kevin Nafte is now the Head Coach for the 2011 team while they are in Israel. Original peace team member Danny Brill is Assistant Coach
-Some Israeli members of the team have been visiting Bethlehem in Palestine.