The AFL Peace Team

Project Objective

To build bridges between the Palestinian and Jewish communities in Israel and Australia through the creation of a composite Palestinian-Israeli team to compete in the AFL International Cup.

The Preparation

Seventy-five Israeli and Palestinian athletes were selected for the initial training squad, sourced largely from players with strong basketball and soccer backgrounds. This squad was formed and educated on the fundamentals of Australian Rules including DVD and formal rule explanations and attendance at an exhibition game. AFL legends to visit the team to assist with the education process included Ron Barassi, Robert DiPierdomenico (Dipper) and Kevin Sheehan. With education on the game completed weekly training sessions commenced and team camaraderie formed over time meshing a team with a kaleidoscope of backgrounds, religions and political beliefs. Sports Without Borders played a key role in building bridges between the local Islamic and Jewish communities to support the initiative.

The Tournament

The AFL Peace team was undoubtedly the crowd favorite among the 16 international teams and was the tournament high achiever considering the Peace Team’s 26 players had only learnt the fundamentals of the game in 7 months. The Peace Team notched up impressive results, winning 2 matches during the tournament (against China and Finland) as well as a practice match held prior.