The OneFamily Soccer Team proved to be a powerhouse at the Regional Tournament in Eilat last week, winning five games over five days on the way to a second place finish.
But while the teams’s coach, Ami Ben-David said he was pleased the players performed so well in the tournament, he was reluctant to place excessive significance on the outcome of the games.
“The soccer doesn’t really matter, except that it brings the players together.” he said. “Being together is what really counts.”
For the OneFamily team, the tournament was more of a therapeutic retreat than a sports competition. “When they see each other, they know they can let go of their troubles because they all face the same challenges. That’s what’s really important,” Ben-David said.
The team also took part in group therapy sessions with OneFamily’s therapist Yehuda IshShalom, sharing their feelings in a setting that is comfortable because the players are so close and share similar experiences of trauma.
The soccer team was launched 6 years ago as a support group for terror victims who have been injured or who lost family in terrorist attacks. It’s become an indispensable resource for the players on the team. They play once a week in a league in the Jerusalem area and gather socially at least once a month.
But more importantly, they strengthen one another when times are difficult, such as on the anniversary of their loved one’s deaths. “They are like the Musketeers, all for one and one for all,” Coach Ben-David said. “They can tell immediately when someone isn’t doing well. They can see it in their eyes.”
Over the years, the team has grown to 30 players. The most recent addition was a bereaved brother whose twin was murdered in 2014. In that time, only one player has left the team and only because his family left Israel and settled in the United States.
The players have also grown. When the team began, none were married. Today, 12 of the players are married and have 10 children between them.
In Eilat, the players, even those who came with their wives and children, were virtually inseparable for the five days – rooming together, eating their meals together, and even taking in the sights and sounds of Eilat together as a group.
“We had 30 people together all the time, and they all love each other. That’s what makes the group so special,” Ben-David said. “They have truly become a family.”