Top Israeli players and youth teams meet at the Holot asylum seeker detention centre in Negev, home to over 4,000 refugees, to visit the centre and play a friendly match. The symbolic match was contested between the youth team of Beni Yehudi and a team of refugees to promote solidarity and between cultures, years after the 2012 riots between migrants and Israelis in the Tel Aviv neighborhood of Hatikvah, where Bnei Yehuda is based.
“When people come to play football with us it is obviously a good” said Bereket Gebrekirstas, 29, who walked through Eritrea, Sudan and Egypt before arriving to Israel five years ago. Gebrekirstas worked as a dishwasher in Tel Aviv before he could no longer renew his tourist visa and was sent to Holot where he has lived for the last five months.
The event was organised by NIF campaign Kick It Out Israel in partnership with the Israel Football Association, Professional Player’s Association and the Holot refugee centre and was attended by players of Bnei Yehuda, Hapoel Tel Aviv, Bnei Sakhnin and Maccabi Netanya, who distributed 60 t-shirts and 20 football balls amongst the participants.
Hapoel Tel Aviv spokesman Erez Neeman said: “Our club strongly believes in including everyone and expressing solidarity with all mankind. Projects like these show we are on the right path. We have proven many times that football is ideal place to bring people closer together and bridge gaps. The struggle against racism is long and arduous but ultimately it will bring about a better society.”