While the Israeli domestic soccer season drew to a dramatic close over the past days, Israel's President Reuven Rivlin met with the 'champions of champions' - 24 children from "The Equalizer" project.
President Rivlin hosted an event at the President's Residence this morning, , for children taking part in a socio-educational sports project, specifically created to establish an afternoon support system for children from Israel's social periphery. As part of the initiative, the children throughout the year took part in professional soccer training together while they attended learning and enrichment centers.
During the event three members of the project from Yeruham, Haifa and Majdal Shams spoke about the project's.
"Last year I had the privilege of visiting you, and attended the opening of the season. I saw the game and I was very excited by it," said the President in his introduction, and added, "You played very well – you are the soccer players of all our futures. You are the Benayouns, Bredas and Zahavis of the future of Israeli sport. Usually we are fans of one group or another and when a goal is scored you are either very happy or you're upset. But with you, any goal scored was a victory. Each goal makes us happy and brings tremendous enthusiasm. We know that soccer is a very competitive game. In my time, people who understood soccer would say that; victory in soccer is not the most important thing – it is the only important thing."
The President continue, "In 'The Equalizer' project however, we see that even though in soccer we seek victory for our team, we can do that with sportsmanship, playing against a rival with respect. We know we have an equal opponent, and we are equal to them too. There is no such thing as someone who is better or worse at soccer because of their background, or community. In soccer we are all equal and the competition compels us to act with respect towards each other. You are proof that soccer can be a winning game, no matter who scores the goal. I hope that this project will flourish and will receive the full support of the sporting institutions, as well as the national and educational institutions in Israel. We must all help and applause this project."
Sharon Tussia Cohen, the chairman of the association said, "I adore soccer. Seven years ago I realized that you can use in this adoration for better purposes, and 'The Equalizer' project has been the end-result of this. Each and every child here is a story in itself. They show us how it is possible to take the soccer and create positive things in society through it. I think that the greatest success of our activities is to show there is another way to be involved in soccer, which can lead to positive things."
Liel Danino, a sixth-grader from Yeruham, and a student in the first year of the project told the President, "I am pleased that 'The Equalizer' has given me the opportunity to play soccer the way I like to." Adam Rafa Aoidat from Majdal Shams added, "'The Equalizer' has given me the chance to progress in soccer and be a good athlete. I have come to know both Jews and Arabs, and I'm happy about that."
Yossi Tafri, aged 10 from Haifa, spoke about how 'The Equalizer' had given him strength to continue to play soccer and "show myself", he said. "Since I began the project I am better at things that at first I was not so good at."
At the end of the meeting, Milardo Asarat Taraka from Tel Aviv, a player in the Lewinsky team, and the son of an asylum seeker from Eritrea, together with Itamar Elbaz from Migdal Haemek presented President Rivlin with a soccer ball signed by the children participating in the project.
The President thanked them and said, "This ball will be waiting for you, with me – till you are all Premier League players!"
Participants at the meeting included members from all areas of Israel, including Dalit El Carmel, Majdal Shams, Shlomi, Rehovot, Yeruham, Sderot, the Sharon, Jaljulya, Jerusalem and others.