In an effort to rekindle the spirit of coexistence created through Israeli soccer, Meir Cohen, the Jewish captain of the Arab-owned Bnei Sakhnin team, has defended the city's mayor Mazan Ghanem. Ghanem transformed Bnei Sakhnin into a leading Israeli soccer club and has been an ally of NIF in the struggle against racism in the stadium. However, after addressing a demonstration in Sakhnin against the harming of civilians in Gaza and Israel, he has been vilified by the Israeli media.
Bnei Sakhnin captain Meir Cohen is championing coexistence in the city.
"Many in the sport were blind to the racism in Israel's stadiums," said Cohen. “But Ghanem promoted soccer as a way of breaking stereotypes and bringing Jews and Arabs together to support the club. He used soccer as the most authentic expression for Jews and Arabs to coexist in mutual respect and saw soccer as able to create an equality which is hard to find in any other arena."
"Now of all times," added Cohen, "we must struggle to make sure that soccer remains an island of sanity and ensure that Israel's Arab minority remains part of the game."