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Harmonious kicks: Building peace through sport

21 May 2009

Harmonious kicks: Building peace through sport


The following report is an adaptation of a report submitted to the International Office by Sister Helena McEvilly FMDM, DPI Nigeria Coordinating Team:

Following the crisis in Jos, Nigeria, during November 2009, there have been many efforts to build up trust and cordial relationships between Muslims and Christians, as many people at the grassroots are anxious to restore peace. To this end, DPI Nigeria decided to look at the possibility of having a small football tournament to try and begin bringing young people together, as they are often the ones who are used to perpetrate violence when there is a crisis.

Eight teams from different parts of the city of Jos were chosen: most of these areas had been directly involved in the crisis, some felt tension because they had not got involved and were feeling isolated and fearful. From the beginning of our plans it was emphasized that there would be no losers in this tournament: the fact that we would be coming together to build peaceful relationships and try to restore trust, makes us all winners.

During the planning process, stakeholders shared that there were no winners during the Jos crisis. Moreover, Umaru Shebu, a promising footballer, shared how he was shot in the leg during the crisis, and that he thought football was a good way of bringing people together to begin to build trust again. Others shared how they lost loved ones, homes, property, etc. The youth who participated in the planning meetings stated in no uncertain terms that peace was the only way forward for the people of Jos. // The youth also shared that it would be good to start PACTs among themselves after the tournament. Thus, following the tournament, a meeting has been planned to evaluate the tournament and to see if the youth are still willing to begin to form PACTs.

The tournament took place in Jos between 25th – 28th April 2009. Before each game there was a few minutes talk with the teams to remind them of the purpose of the tournament and the desired outcomes. As it was a public gathering of peoples, DPI had to do a lot of advertising as gatherings of peoples’ are still viewed with suspicion.  The army, who were on patrol in the area stayed within view, but did not come into the grounds.

The two teams who lost in the semifinals expressed their joy saying the total sum of participation in the tournament is more than the sum of failing to reach the finals. In as much as they would have fobbed to reach the finals, they are glad as youngsters, that they had an avenue to come together and kick out their differences. News of the tournament has reached many communities and they are asking why they were not included. However, DPI had made a conscious decision to keep the tournament small to see how it would run. Perhaps a bigger tournament might be planned in the future.

The American news broadcaster, CNN, heard that DPI was attempting to do something practical and positive to build peace in Jos, and so they were present at some of the matches, spending a whole afternoon with the participants. Some of what they recorded was featured on the CNN programme “Inside Africa”, and can be viewed online at the following link:
http://edition.cnn.com/video/#/video/international/2009/05/19/inside.africa.nigeria.dialogue.bk.b.cnn.

DPI International Office wishes to express our congratulations to all who participated in the football tournament. You certainly all are winners.


Father Oscar and Sister Helena - both of the DPI Nigeria Coordinating Team speak to the youths before kick off during one of the matches. 
 

 
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