How soccer change my life?
Many have asked how it is that a guy who was raised in Arab society developed such a strong desire to contribute to the State of Israel and serve in the IDF?
Ever since I was a child I loved to play soccer. I would play with friends in the neighborhood. I would watch games on TV and look for any opportunity to incorporate soccer into my daily routine. I found myself in an extracurricular soccer games after school in Nazareth Illit, a neighboring city, mainly inhabited by Jews and that is how I had some exposure to Jewish children. I discovered that despite what I had thought, we were all pretty similar. In between the training and games we use to strike up conversations and talk about everything and that is how I learned about Israel and all the things they do not teach at school in Arab society. From there I felt an inner need to be part of Israeli society.
Ten years later I was badly injured as an IDF soldier in the Second Lebanon war. When I started the rehabilitation process after a complex operation in which doctors were able to reattach my severed leg, my doctor made sure the entire time to let me understand that I should keep my expectations realistic given my injury. I was told that I would never be able to walk as before my injury, and that it was likely after a long rehab program that I would return to walk but with a significant limp. But I said to him; “Doctor, I will play soccer again!”
Recovery was along and tiresome process; treatments, physical therapy, and doctor checks. There was a lot of hard work and many difficult moments, moments of internal crisis and breakdowns both physically but mostly emotionally. But it was at the moment of my last doctor visit before being discharged, when I walked into the doctor’s office while kicking around a soccer ball that all my efforts paid off.
The story of my recovery and what I have been through has inspired me to bring my dream/vision to fruition- to build bridges between Arab sectors of Israeli society with Israeli society at large.
Politicians, political commentators and public figures claim dreams are one thing and reality another. They say that for 70 years already the topic of Israeli Arab integration into Israel has been tenuous and that the conflict is too deep, and that even if there is any sort of integration it will be with considerable handicaps.
But I now that we can fulfill a dream against all the chances and statistics, I believe there will be a social miracle. Because with faith, strong will power and hard work it is possible.
My connection to the country came about because of my love for soccer. Soccer proved to be not just a fun game but also a bridge to peace. Israel’s’ national team is a good example of this, more than a third of its players are from the Arab sector and together everyone on the team- Jews and Arabs represent the flag.
On the playing field everyone is equal-we are Israelis before any other identity. One day this will also be true as a society, we will be united, we are all Israeli.
I wish much success to our national team tonight and success for us all.