Peace won – if not in the world of politics and military, then at least on the football pitch. Even though a mixed Israeli-Palestinian Peace Team that participated in the 4th International Swiss U16 Cup in Bad Ragaz (Switzerland) only finished 9th out of 12 teams, they also won in some way: Friendship, respect, solidarity and recognition were the true winners of this special football tournament.
“Once again we saw that football can bring people together regardless of their cultural, religious and political background”, said Adolf Ogi, Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on Sport for Development and Peace. Ogi who took over the patronage of this special tournament is pleased that a team from the hardly fought Near East participated in the tournament.
Entertaining youth football
The twelve top teams offered the spectators high level football. International teams such as Chelsea FC, VfB Stuttgart and Borussia Dortmund but also the Swiss Under 16 teams from FC Basel and FC St. Gallen played good football. The cup finally went to RSC Anderlecht from Belgium.
Hanspeter Rothmund, tournament director of the Youth Cup, is happy to host a mixed team with Israeli and Palestinian boys in Bad Ragaz. At the end, the very difficult situation in the Near East has put in danger the realization of the project, which was prepared during two years by a voluntary organising committee.
Only trough the support of the “Peres Center for Peace” in Tel Aviv the eighteen players could finally be brought to Switzerland. Some football players came directly from the war areas and before they left, they lived in the shelters. Four of the eight Palestinian players where only allowed to to leave the Palestine territory with a special permission from the Israeli army.
The organisers announced to travel to Israel and Palestine in order to bring together the youth of the different parties trough football. Adolf Ogi welcomes the initiative of a post-project between Israel, Palestine and the Lebanon. Known clubs already signalled their interest and support in such a follow-up project.