MIDDLE EAST 2011
29th August – 25th September 2011
American University in Cairo (AUC)
German University in Cairo (GUC)
Al Ahly Football Club
Yafa Cultural Centre – Balata Camp
Al Feniq Centre
Dheisheh Refugee Camp
An Najah National University
Al Wehdat Sporting Club
Youth Development Association – Farkha
American Solidarity Centre
An ambitious tour that changed the hearts and minds of participants.
Football Beyond Borders: Middle East 2011 sought to both build on the successes and learn from the previous tours to the Middle East and West Africa in 2009 and 2010 respectively, to attempt the most ambitious tour to date. We sought to travel to post-revolutionary Egypt, Palestine and Jordan, at a time when the fate of the nascent Palestinian nation lay in the hands of the UN. We aimed to engage with students, local communities and NGOs and to use our common love of football to foster lasting relationships, learn about each other and to challenge dominant narratives. Football’s level playing field was to provide an alternative to the boardroom and high-level diplomacy, which we feel fails to represent our views and has failed the people of the region.
Through the documentation of the tour we sought to provide an alternative narrative of Arabs, and of Palestinians in particular, away from their unfair representation in the mainstream media. We also hoped to transmit an alternative narrative of Westerners – away from David Cameron’s eagerness to secure arms deals with post-revolutionary Egypt, away from Tony Blair’s role as the Middle East’s peace envoy and away from the British government’s continual support for despotic regimes and their unconditional support for Israel at the expense of the Palestinian people.
This was truly historic tour which tested the limits of Football Beyond Borders and made what it is today.
Fundraising in a difficult economic environment and visiting three countries which were undergoing some form of political upheaval made sure this tour was much more difficult to organize and carry out than in previous years. Overcoming the logistical problems that this presented was therefore a major achievement in itself.
Having overcome these initial hurdles, we were able to hold several cross-educational workshops with Coptic Orphans and the Nebny Foundation in Egypt and in refugee camps in Jordan and Palestine. During these sessions we had the opportunity to partake in debates with fellow activists, students and sportsmen, and the critical lens with which everyone saw this trip allowed us to continually improve our methods for achieving our goal of using football to transcend cultural differences. On the tour we provided support for the Nebny Foundation, which is an organisation that promotes on youth empowerment in Manshiyet Nasr, a slum settlement on the outskirts of Cairo.
Although completing the tour was itself a huge achievement, for many participants it was just the beginning of a much longer journey. Since returning home, we have made great efforts to relay the message our hosts gave us, either through team blogs, academic articles, or by actively pursuing the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaign in solidarity with Palestinians. The most succseful method we have used has been by screening the documentary “Over The Wall”, which told the story of our tour and got some great feedback from communities we showed it to and even from respected public figures and the press.
Football Beyond Borders has grown a great deal since Middle East 2011, but the common desire of the team to use the love of the game to bring people together in defiance of any form of racism still resonates strongly within the organisation. Thus, In early 2013 a number of the tour participants were instrumental in the Red Card Israeli Racism which called on UEFA to move the U21 tournament away from Israel, and helped to bring campaigners from around Europe together for a demonstration outside UEFA’s annual congress in London on May 24. The campaign was extremely succesful and help build FBB’s reptutation amongst Palestinian activists in the UK and abroad.