Three days before Brighton’s debut Premier League fixture, its two Israeli stars were promoting a project with co-existence as its goal.
Striker Tomer Hemed appeared at the London launch of the Team for Social Responsibility, which will see 11 players from Israel’s diverse communities acting as role models.
Beram Kayal, the Seagulls’ Israeli Arab midfielder, sent a video message, being unable to attend because of an ankle injury.
The initiative is under the aegis of the New Israel Fund-administered Let’s Kick Racism and Violence Out of Israeli Football.
In his message, Kayal said it would be “a great and exciting programme for Israel.
“For all players it will have a great impact. I hope people can see my friendship with Tomer as a good example for others in Israel. Not only for Jews and Arabs but everybody.
“Everybody can get along with each other. I hope it’s just the beginning.”
Hemed told the launch: “We have a great opportunity to use our names. We know kids watch us play and that we can be a good example.
“Players can show everyone in football and outside of football that we can live together.”
Other speakers were former players Paul Mortimer and Brendon Batson, both representing Kick It Out, and Paul Elliott, who chairs the FA’s inclusion and advisory board.
They discussed the progress made towards eliminating racism within the English game and further steps which needed to be taken here and abroad.
Tony Bloom, the Brighton chairman, added that antisemitism — particularly directed towards Tottenham Hotspur supporters — and homophobia had yet to be eradicated from the English game.
Also taking part in the programme will be Oshrat Eini, a top Israeli women’s player, who spoke of football’s ability to unite.
“Where I grew up I never met an Arab person — all I knew is what I saw on TV.
“TV always shows the bad things and never shows the good side.
“I met an Arab girl and it was strange and awkward. I didn’t know what to say. But through football we became very good friends. As footballers we have a great responsibility. One thing it teaches you is to respect one another, and we can use this in the Team for Social Responsibility to show others.”