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Israel beats UAE as rugby teams hold first friendly match in Dubai

Clubs then intermingle to play a second mixed-team round; Rivlin hails new ‘bonds of friendship and cooperation’ between nations

Israeli (blue) and Emirati rugby players greet each other after their first friendly match in Dubai on March 19, 2021. (Karim SAHIB/AFP)
Israeli (blue) and Emirati rugby players greet each other after their first friendly match in Dubai on March 19, 2021. (Karim SAHIB/AFP)

The national rugby teams of Israel and the United Arab Emirates held their first friendly game in Dubai Friday, in what was termed the Abraham Accord Friendship Cup — after the name of the normalization agreement between the countries signed last year.

Israel defeated the Emiratis in the game 33 to 0. The teams then mixed into “blue” and “white” teams with each including players from both nations, and played another game.

The white team won that round 50 to 40.

Congratulating the teams in a video message, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin praised the “wonderful expression of the new spirit of people-to-people peace following the historic Abraham Accords.

UAE and Israel rugby players listen to the Israel national anthem before a friendly match in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Friday, March 19, 2021. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

“While leaders may sign peace agreements, true peace requires people on both sides to build bonds of friendship and cooperation in every arena.”

The Israeli team had flown out to Dubai on Tuesday. Ahead of the journey, player Gilad Goldstein told Kan news: “It’s a very exciting trip. We worked hard ahead of it.”

Israeli (blue) and Emirati rugby teams play their first friendly match in Dubai on March 19, 2021. (Karim SAHIB / AFP)

The president of the Israeli Rugby Association, Ofer Fabian, told Kan: “We were met with a great desire to come together [from the Emirati side]. As far as we’re concerned this should turn into an annual thing, and of course they want to come to Israel.”

Israeli (blue) and Emirati rugby players greet each other after their first friendly match in Dubai on March 19, 2021. (Karim SAHIB/AFP)

The Israeli team stayed in Dubai to celebrate and held an outdoor Shabbat ceremony captured by Khaleej Times writer Michal Divon.

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