President Rivlin: “I am pleased that the committee, which considered all the details, found it fitting to raise Beitar to the headlines today, for the reasons we had hoped for. I hope that Beitar will continue on the right and proper way, and your success will have a positive impact across the public.
“We must persevere, to strive for victory everywhere, and yet to know that without fairness we won’t get anywhere. A society plagued by racism, a society plagued by nationalism, a society that is plagued with xenophobia, is a society that will ultimately be unable to live with itself, and I am happy for the progress that has been made in football in Israel in the struggle against such phenomena.”
President of Israel, Reuven Rivlin yesterday morning (Monday) hosted at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, the award ceremony for the Shield of Honor, awarded this year to Maccabi Haifa (Award for Excellence), and Beitar Jerusalem (Award for Groundbreaking Achievements), for the clubs’ efforts to combat racism and discrimination on and off the field.
Now in its third year, the prize - awarded to Israeli Premier League clubs - is an initiative of the President’s Office, together with the Ministry of Culture & Sport, The Football Association, the Association for the Prevention of Violence in Sport, and the Ministry of Sport and Culture and others. The project is aimed at strengthening and offering support to clubs to expand their communal and social projects, to help combat violence and racism, and promote cooperation between the clubs across the country. This year, Maccabi Haifa received the Award for Excellence for the club’s work to educate and shape the future generation on and off the field, and for its extensive and in-depth activity and great investment in ethical and educational activities.
Beitar Jerusalem were awarded the Groundbreaking Achievement Award, in the face of challenges which the committee noted were unmatched in the sports world in Israel. The club however was deemed to have made a significant breakthroughs by investing considerable efforts and resources in community and educational activities, along with embarking upon an uncompromising struggle against incitement and racism. Initiatives included mediation meetings with the representatives of the fans and supporters groups, and an annual lecture series by players in the local schools.
In addition, this year, for the first time, there were also awards to youth teams, with the “Shield of Honor: The Next Generation" prizes presented to Maccabi Beer Sheva and Hapoel Tel Aviv.
In his address, President Rivlin spoke of the significant achievements of Beitar Jerusalem and said, “Beitar's battle is a parable for us all, of the need to understand that the Jewish state can be democratic only when we recognize that we are all equal, that everyone has the right to live according to their faith and identity. I am pleased that the committee, which considered all the details, found it fitting to raise Beitar to the headlines today for the reasons we had hoped for. I hope that Beitar will continue on the right and proper way, and your success will have a positive impact across the public. I remind everyone today that the effort is a significant part of the test. But in football as in life, the only success is success itself.”
Earlier, President Rivlin met with representatives of the Israeli Premier League Clubs, and of the Football Association. He told them, “In football of course, victory is the main goal. At the same time, victory can only come from fairness, out of consideration, out of respect for others. We must make sure that more and more young people in Israel understand the quality and the great contribution of sporting ability to the community. We must persevere, to strive for victory everywhere, and yet to know that without fairness we won’t get anywhere. A society plagued by racism, a society plagued by nationalism, a society that is plagued with xenophobia is a society that will ultimately be unable to live with itself, and I am happy for the progress that has been made in football in Israel in the struggle against such phenomena.”
During the award ceremony, former top flight British footballer, and representative of UEFA Fair Play and Social Responsibility Committee, Paul Elliot CBE, also spoke. He praised the Shield of Honor program for its ability to “Change mindsets and attitudes”. He told the attendees, “Football has a real ability to make real social change. We know education is key, but most important of all is leadership. We are indebted to the President for his leadership. This award is outstanding in recognizing and celebrating the achievements in this country.” He noted the important ability of football to break down barriers between people and communities, and said, “Football can strengthen, can mobilize, can bring people together, to unite, to break down barriers, to address issues of discrimination, social inclusion, disability. Football is for all, football is for everyone.”