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Exclusive: Friendship will be the winner in UAE-Israel rugby match, says Perelini

rituraj@khaleejtimes.com Filed on March 18, 2021

Members of the UAE and Israel rugby teams pose before their training session in Dubai. (Twitter)

UAE coach Apollo Perelini

The matches will be played at the Dubai Sports City on Friday

The result will cry for relevance when the UAE and Israel rugby sevens teams lock horns to put a smile on millions of faces around the world.

Following the historic peace deal between the two countries last year, sports federations in the UAE and Israel have left no stone unturned in their attempt to further strengthen the ties.

And the rugby teams of the two countries will reap the fruits of those groundbreaking efforts when they play an exhibition match at the Dubai Sports City on Friday.

Then, in line with the spirit of the occasion, the two national teams will be mixed for another game of sevens rugby on the same day.

No wonder then that Friday’s matches hold a special place in Apollo Perelini’s heart.

“It’s a special moment. To play in this friendship match is truly amazing, and the most important thing is not about the result. It’s just the event and it’s really amazing to be part of it,” Perelini, the UAE head coach, told Khaleej Times on Thursday.

“It’s one of the highlights of my life. I have achieved so much in my career, playing at the international level. But this is a historic event, you know, and to have the mixed teams is amazing.”

Another remarkable feature about Friday’s main match is Perelini’s success in fielding a UAE team of all Emirati players.

“You know, we in the UAE have an expat-performance team, which predominantly have the expats. So to be able to field a full Emirati team against Israel is fantastic. It’s a fantastic achievement for the federation,” Perelini said.

“We have been developing Emirati players in the last 10 years. Some of them have come and gone, but the greatest thing for me is what I didn’t want to do is field in this match a team of expats. It just doesn’t look right. So it’s great to have a team of Emiratis for this game. They are very competent, very confident. They are good players.”

Perelini then revealed who, according to him, would be the biggest winner on Friday.

“As far as this game is concerned, it’s not about the result, it’s not about who wins and who loses. The biggest winner is the relationship,” he said.

“For me personally, it’s an achievement, forming this lovely friendship between the two countries within the sport. It’s the occasion and what it stands for.

“Sport teaches you a lot of things, it teaches you life skills, resilience, team spirit.

“But when you come back, you forget about what happened in the field, and you enjoy the friendships you made. I have made more friends in sports than I have ever made as a normal person,” the Kiwi coach said before sharing his experience of working with the Israeli contingent for the match between the mixed teams.

“It’s been brilliant. When they first stepped onto the field, we played some mock-up games. Both the teams have loved it. We have been training together for this occasion.”

Rugby Friendly

UAE vs Israel

5:30pm UAE team

Rugby Park, Dubai Sports City

The match will be followed by another one where two teams will be mixed.

These two teams have been named Israel-UAE Blue and Israel-UAE White.


Rituraj Borkakoty

A big fan of the Argentina national football team, Rituraj generally writes on sports. But he deeply cherishes the time he spent with his favourite musician from Assam, India, for an interview. And he loves to bring human interest stories to Khaleej Times readers.

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