Several of Brazil’s most well-known soccer legends visited Rambam this morning, taking time out of their busy schedule revolving around tonight’s friendly “Peace Game” to meet with young Israeli and Palestinian patients in Rambam's Ruth Rappaport Children’s Hospital.
Former Brazilian soccer players Cafu, Emerson, Aldair, César Sampaio, Amoroso, and Anderson Polga, and Brazilian footvolley player Natalia Guitler—who are all currently in Haifa to compete in tonight’s "Peace Game" at Sammy Ofer Stadium—came to Rambam Health Care Campus this morning to visit with Israeli and Palestinian children hospitalized in the Joan & Sanford Weil Division of Pediatric Hematology-Oncology and the Pediatric Nephrology Institute in the medical center’s Ruth Rappaport Children's Hospital.
These former stars spent time with the excited children – who represent a diverse cross-section of religious and ethnic backgrounds, distributing scarves, talking to them, answering their questions, and telling them about their soccer careers.
The players’ visit to Rambam was arranged by the Haifa Economic Corporation—which is responsible for organizing the Peace Game on behalf of the Haifa municipality—and the medical center's administration.
Dr. Michael Halberthal, the Director of Rambam Health Care Campus, noted, "The primary focus of my training and work experience in the 33 years that I have been at Rambam has always been treating and taking care of children. I am well aware of the great impact that a meeting with Brazilian soccer stars can have on helping children to forget about hospitalization and illness for a moment; these soccer players are doing a wonderful thing. We also welcome the important purpose of the Peace Game. These ideals are in complete alignment with the worldview of Ruth Rappaport Children's Hospital, which takes care of children from all population groups - Israeli Jews, Christians, and Muslims, as well as Palestinians."
Attorney David Etzioni, Haifa's Deputy Mayor and Chairman of the Board of the Haifa Economic Corporation, accompanied the delegation. "Haifa is the right place for the Peace Game. We are excited that the opportunity has been created in the busy, demanding schedule to make these hospitalized children happy. To me there is no greater act than this,” explained Etzioni.
Or Shahaf, CEO of Haifa Economic Corporation stated that, "The Economic Corporation is pleased to welcome these players for such an unbelievably important cause. It’s not every day that legends like them come to Israel, and seeing the children’s joy during these moments and how it helped to distract them from what they’re going through in the hospital was worth everything. After confirming that the game would take place, I contacted Dr. Halberthal, who immediately responded in the affirmative and was keen for Rambam to be involved. We are grateful for his and Rambam’s cooperation for this worthy cause."
During the visit, the players themselves were excited to hear from Professor Myriam Ben-Arush, Director of the Pediatric Division in Ruth Rappaport Children's Hospital, about the mix of children from a variety of backgrounds and speaking different languages in each department. They requested to go from room to room to take photos with the young patients and ask where they were from, and the Brazilian team scarves that the players handed out were a much sought-after commodity.