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Israelis, Palestinians mates in ‘football

A joint Israeli-Palestinian team will compete in the 2008 world championship of Australian Rules football.

The team, formed by the Israel-based Peres Center for Peace, will compete in the Third International Cup, which celebrates the 150th anniversary of the distinctive Australian sport that is a cross between Gaelic football, American football and rugby.

At a meeting last week in Melbourne of Jewish philanthropists, Australian Football League chiefs and team representatives, Jewish billionaire Richard Pratt pledged some $53,000 of the estimated $265,000 required to bring the team to Australia next August. Pratt is the president of the Carlton Football Club.

Corporate sponsors and the league raised another $100,000.

Money aside, the initiative is laden with challenges, said the executive director of the Australian arm of the Peres Center for Peace, Tanya Oziel, who has been the driving force behind the project.

Bringing Palestinian players through Israeli checkpoints to enable them to train with the Israelis will be challenging but not impossible, she said. Perhaps more problematic is the fact that most of the players have never touched an Australian Rules football, let alone played the game.

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