Monday, December 9, 2013

Goals for Peace: Football tournaments promote unity along Sudan’s Borders

By: Holly Moody
Produced & Edited by: Danny Medlock

For some athletes, the prospect of taking home a medal is their drive to bring their best game, but for others, the message behind that game is their motivation to leave their best on the field.
The Olympic Games and the World Cup are two events that routinely remind us that sport has the power to bring people from all parts of the world together to work towards a common goal.
Winning has been that universal goal for centuries. For Sudanese footballers the goals have become bigger than the game – ending violence and promoting peace in its communities.
Football as a unifying force
Over the past year, AECOM, a global provider of technical and management
Over 4,000 spectators took in the tournament.
(Photo provided by AECOM)
support services, has been working in Sudan to implement peace and reconciliation football tournaments. The organization works in conjunction with the Tadomon locality and the Sudan Football Union.
“We are trying to send a message of peace through sport,” said Waleed Ali, an AECOM contractor for Sudan.
From September 15 to October 15, ten communities that reside along the border of Sudan and South Sudan competed in a football tournament. The objective of this tournament was to not only to bring in a source of local entertainment, but also piece together the broken social relationships amongst different areas in Sudan.
“The government has often times put us in positions where it has been hard to keep the peace,” said Hassan Gali Musa, a forward on playing for the Giessan community.
Whether it’s social or political, there are several issues that leave the communities of Sudan in a state of unrest. The costs of fuel and discontent with Sudan’s president, Omar Al Bashir, has turned regions in Sudan - such as Darfur - into war zones with protests, and violence over natural resources such as gold. 
“I think Sudan is in a tricky situation. Darfur, and Brunei has many problems with central government,” said Mauwi Yusif, an AECOM contractor for Sudan whom worked on the project. “They have constant confrontation. The purpose of the tournaments is to bring people together to build a relationship. It gives people the opportunity to have conversation and work towards reconciliation.”
According to Yusif, the competition attracted over 4,000 spectators from various regions in Sudan.
“I think it is a good thing for people to get out and away from the war environment,” said Musa. “It’s a good time for people to get together for a good purpose.”
The Giessan and Tadomon team ultimately advanced to the final match of competition and won the tournament.
“We got to play in the final match, but we were more happy because we achieved our objectives to create peace with the communities,” said Eltaib Mohammed Omen, a forward for the Tadomon team. “Winning was not the objective. The objective was peace and to bring people together so to me we are all winners.”
Prior to the tournament each player underwent peace building training to learn how to create positive dialogue between the players and spectators from surrounding communities.  
“To have that interaction and be able to play and talk together let’s me know that we will have a positive future,” said Omen.
Youth Football for Peace in Sudan
Youth teams in Sudan have also been getting in on the action to help promote peace in their communities.
From October 4 to October 31, the African Union-United Nations in Darfur (UNAMID) and South Darfur Ministry of Youth Sports hosted a peace football tournament in Nyala.
The tournament had more of a narrow focus, as the objective was to strengthen the relationship between the internally displaced persons (IDP) youth and the Nyala neighborhoods youth.
“Darfur’s many issues with violence has polarized communities that have lived in peace and peaceful co-existence for many years especially in South Darfur,” said Abdalla Mohtar Abdalla, General Director of Sport at the Ministry of Youth and Sports.
In the tournament, Eight IDP teams competed against eight Nyala community youth teams. El-Wadi, from the Nyala community won the tournament.
“The El-Wadi team emerged winner by 5:4 in final penalty kicks after the match ended in a draw while the Planning Sakali team and Direij were placed second and third respectively,” said Abdalla.
According to Abdalla, the tournament attracted hundred of fans and spectators from the community.
“It provided a wonderful opportunity to the youth and gave them a chance to have fun and entertainment in friendly environment,” said Abdalla.
 Future outlook
The Tadamon community football team win's the
AECOM peace & reconciliation tournament.
(Photo provided by AECOM)
The organizers and players of these tournaments would like to see football to continue to be a tool for change in Sudan.
“We are brothers. We are sisters,” said Omen. “We need to organize more events in the world like this to promote peace.”
AECOM and the Ministry of Youth Sports in South Darfur are continuing their efforts to plan more peace tournaments in other communities of Sudan.
“My favorite part is seeing people dancing and singing together as one,” said Yusif. “People asked when are you going to do this again and we are working towards creating more opportunities for peace and football in Sudan.”

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