Football Association of Ireland (FAI) coaches have taken part in the Football Village of Hope peace-building initiative in Israel.
The FAI delegation visited the Football Village of Hope event in the northern Israeli village of Shfeya to deliver coaching sessions – as the association's contribution to a scheme that brings together Israeli and Palestinian schoolchildren in the hope of breaking a cycle of segregation.
More than 100 youngsters from Kiryat Gat, Merchavim, Jericho, Hebron, Yata and Yerucham played football together and received guidance from the FAI coaches, in addition to their classroom activities and workshops. The FAI's involvement is supervised by Milo Corcoran, the former association president and current chairman of its international committee, together with Ophir Zardok, ex-general manager of Irish Premier Division side Drogheda United FC.
The football training sessions were given by coaches Ger Dunne, Sue Ronan and Des Tomlinson, as well as a mixed team of Israeli and Palestinian counsellors, providing positive role models for the children. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the kids to meet the 'other side' and to work together on the common goal of a better future," said Anwar Zeidan, the head Palestinian coach.
The Football Village of Hope, organised by the Peres Centre for Peace as an annual event, hosts boys and girls from the Twinned Peace and Sports Schools programme. The long-term vision for the project, which has been running for more than eight years, is to become established as a grassroots peace-building activity that offers a blueprint for Palestinian-Israeli peace building and coexistence.