Interfaith football: Arsenal FC trains Jewish, Muslim and Christian students

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Interfaith football: Arsenal FC trains Jewish, Muslim and Christian students

Hasmonean Boys one of three faith schools using the beautiful game to build bridges amidst Israel-Gaza conflict

Interfaith football, Tuesday 4th June 2024
Interfaith football, Tuesday 4th June 2024

Thirty boys from three single-faith schools came together for the very first-time to play football at Arsenal Emirates Stadium.

Students from Hasmonean Boys School, joined the Al-Khoei Shia School and Maria Fidelis Catholic School on Tuesday 4th June in an initiative organised by Faith Forum for London to build bridges through football.

For both the Jewish and Muslim schools, in particular, the path to this interfaith day was not an easy one. Parents were initially concerned that the politics from the war in Gaza would create division between the  students.

Instead the group of 13, 14 and 15 year-olds sweated through a two hour football practice with Arsenal coaches, before sharing a Kosher and Halal lunch, and a stadium tour. They met with Jewish professional footballer,  Dean Furman on how to combat hate-crime on and off the pitch and Riz Rehman, who is leading the Faith and Football initiative  at the Professional Footballers’ Association.

Aliya Azam, Head of Science at Al-Sadiq and Al-Zahra Schools, and one of the organisers of the day, said: “Playing together is a great way to break down barriers. This day opens the door to a deeper understanding for our students of their Jewish and Christian peers, and that’s vitally important in countering the negative stories out there.”

Rabbi Natan Levy, Head of Operations for Faith Forum for London, another organiser, said: “The war in Gaza has deeply impacted all our communities. In fact, the Hasmonean School football team had to shut-down this year, because of the real risk of anti-Semitic attacks when playing at other schools.  Yet, these schools all recognised that keeping these young boys apart won’t help them learn to live together in the future.  Playing football together,  asking loads of questions about what makes this bagel kosher, or what time Muslim afternoon prayers need to take place, all this real-life engagement, that’s breaking down barriers, and paving a way forward.”

Interfaith football

Riz Rehman, player inclusion executive, Professional Footballers’ Association said: “I am acutely aware of the challenges faced by young people from minority communities in this country and the negative impact media reporting can have on their mindset and actions. Interfaith football events like these are a great opportunity to bring together young people from diverse backgrounds and ethnicities to challenge misconceptions, build friendships, and raise aspirations through the work of clubs, community groups and the wider football family.”

Interfaith football 4th June 2024, Arsenal FC

Dean Furman, player services executive at the Professional Footballers Association said: “I am proud to be involved with the Interfaith Football Event and look forward to interacting with the youngsters from various faiths and backgrounds. I believe sport has the power to unite people and break down social barriers.

“As Nelson Mandela famously said, ‘Sport has the power to change the world; it can help unite people in a way that little else does. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair.’ This famous quote is hugely significant in the current world climate, and events such as the Interfaith Football Event will hopefully have a positive impact for everyone involved and work towards a more inclusive future.”

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