Playing soccer for peace in Colombia
Only eleven, Kevin Dagua is quite familiar with war. At the slightest sound of gunfire, he and his family run for shelter.
Kevin lives in the northern part of the Cauca department in Colombia, one of the areas hit hardest by the dispute between armed groups, including the FARC and the Colombian Army.
- The Soccer and Peace Network is an open network of organizations that use soccer to promote peace and reconciliation among children, adolescents and young adults.
- Close to 25,000 children, adolescents and young adults participate in the Network.
- The Network has the support of UNDP, the World Bank, UNICEF and GIZ.
Recently, Kevin has been a soccer player for En La Jugada [In The Game], a project by the Talentos Foundation. The Foundation is part of the Soccer and Peace Network promoted by UNDP in Colombia.
“Kevin lives in a difficult area. But he really enjoys soccer and has developed a strong sense of identity with his people,” explained Eduardo Albero Molina, coordinator of the Talentos Foundation.
“Through art, soccer and socializing, we help prevent children and youth from participating in illegal activities, gangs or getting involved with the guerrillas,” he added.
Created in 2010 by UNDP, the Soccer and Peace Network aims to create an open network of organizations that use soccer to promote coexistence, reconciliation and peace among children, adolescents and young adults. Close to 25,000 children, adolescents and young adults participate in the programs offered by the various foundations, associations and institutions in the Network.
The organizations that participate in the Soccer and Peace Network have similar goals of tolerance and solidarity. They work with children, adolescents and young adults using sports, especially soccer, to promote peace-building and to prevent dropouts, drug abuse, and domestic and gender-based violence.
“The advantage of soccer is that almost everyone can play with the same ball,” said Mr. Marzola, a teacher from Cartagena who has dedicated the last 20 years of his life to working with young children and adolescents from poor neighborhoods.
“It’s very hard when you see how much a child has worked to succeed, only to watch their environment trap them and pull them back down. But there are many who come back and end up playing on the same team as their old enemies,” he added.
The Soccer and Peace Network is supported by UNDP, the World Bank, UNICEF and GIZ, and nearly 20 peace initiatives from various regions of the country are part of the Network. The Network has already taken part in some significant events such as Expopaz 2010, the first Peace-building Fair held by UNDP and international partners, and the Youth Solidarity World Cup in Barranquilla which occurred alongside the FIFA U-20 World Cup.
“The important thing for us isn’t making great soccer players. We want to use the game to channel a feeling of belonging, self-esteem and personal development for boys and girls who participate, in order to protect them and strengthen their families and their communities.” said Natalia León of the Fundación Fútbol con Corazón [The Soccer with Heart Foundation], an organization involved with the Soccer and Peace Network.