29 MARCH 2005


Israeli, Palestinian youth play soccer for peace

Chelsea F.C. manager Jose Mourinho controls the ball as a young Israeli player moves in to tackle him.

Palestinian and Israeli youngsters welcomed Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho to a mixed team 菟eace soccer tournament Sunday, a day after an embattled Arab-Israeli player led the national team to a dramatic 1-1 tie in a World Cup qualifier.
The soccer tournament, sponsored by the Peres Center for Peace, was part of a program to foster cooperation between Palestinians and Israelis, despite more than four years of violence.
It brought together 100 Israelis from the community of Kiryat Eqron and an equal number of Palestinians from Issawiya, an impoverished east Jerusalem neighborhood.
The youngsters performed ball control and passing exercises and divided into mixed groups under the watchful gaze of Mourinho, coach of the famous English team, and the center's founder, Shimon Peres, Israel's vice premier.

They played in the shadow of Israel's National Stadium, where on Saturday Arab-Israeli player Abas Suan scored in the last minute to give Israel a 1-1 draw with Ireland in a World Cup qualifying match.
Last month, an intensely nationalistic Israeli crowd in Jerusalem booed Suan almost ever time he touched the ball during a friendly match against Croatia, an episode widely condemned by Israeli soccer authorities.
On Sunday, however, Peres and Mourinho were all smiles as they watched the Israeli and Palestinian children go through their paces.
典here is nothing like sport that can bring people together in the most noble manner, Peres said.

About one-sixth of Israel's 6.6 million citizens are Arabs, and an additional 3 million Palestinians live in the West Bank and Gaza.
Mourinho said seeing the Israeli and Palestinian children helped put soccer in its proper perspective.
典his visit is very important because it proves that there is a lot more than (soccer), he said. (Soccer) is a social vehicle and I came here because it is important to show how it can make the world a better place.
Mourinho is in Israel for a two-day visit. On Monday he was due to give lectures to Israeli and Palestinian coaches and tour Israel's parliament.

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