Unification News for December 2004

Liberia: "Play Soccer Make Peace"

by Julu M. Johnson, Jr.

Eight youth, community based and voluntary groups have completed a series of Play Soccer Make Peace! in Liberia. The tournament was held from 24-26 September 2004 at the Youth Soccer Field on Lynch Street and the Stephen Tolbert Estate Sports Field in Gardnersville, utilizing under-nineteen teams.

In the final match on Sunday, the Perfect Gentlemen of Stephen Tolbert Estate defeated an under-19 selection of the Press Union of Liberia two goals to zero. In the Third Place Match played earlier that day, the Center for Media Studies and Peace Building (CEMESP) defeated the Liberian Ex-combatants Anxious for Development (LEAD) 6-4 in post-match penalty kicks. Other participants in the tournament were the J.J. Roberts Scholarship Students Association (JJRSSA), Youth Movement Against the Proliferation of Small Arms, Optimist Youths of Sinkor and the Sea Pro Under-17.

Later in the closing program, Play Soccer Make Peace! badges were issued to players and officials of the participating teams, game officials, and special guests.

Participating teams earned awards of US$500 each, while the fourth, third, second and first place winners took cash prizes of one, two, three and five thousand United States dollars, respectively. The participating organizations are expected to utilize their prizes in developing peace related projects. 

Guests at the occasion included Youth & Sports Minister Wheatonia Dixon Barnes, Dr. Oumar Ndongo of the Mano River Peace Forum, Sidi Diawara of the National Democratic Institute, UNMIL Media Consultant Dr. Abiodun Onadipe, officials of the participating organizations and thousands of residents from the Gardnersville area.

Other personalities who graced the tournament were the Ministers of Education and Gender and Development, as well as the Secretary General of the Liberia Football Association, and the Secretary General of the Liberia Women Initiative.

Play Soccer Make Peace! is a project of the World Association of Non Governmental Organizations (WANGO), with funding from the Sun Moon Foundation to help encourage and develop youth soccer in 44 different countries around the world.

It is a model to teach youth of various cultures the basic skills in sport along with a foundation of ethical behavior and sportsmanship. An emphasis is placed on creating a culture of peace through teaching the principles of shared vision, discipline, teamwork, and respect for the opponent.

Brazilian soccer legend Pele is a supporter of the initiatives of the Sun Moon Soccer Foundation, and supports their work to develop youth soccer.

The goal of Play Soccer Make Peace! is to hold tournaments in 44 different countries using established youth soccer teams and associations. All participating teams agree to the principles and code of conduct, and after the tournament are encouraged to participate with the other teams from the 44 countries in a worldwide community network to spread the vision.

By promoting soccer and teaching the principles of teamwork, self-control and respect for opponents to the youth of the world--- Play Soccer Make Peace! seeks to create a foundation for true world peace.

At the close of the project in Monrovia, a special statement by the Secretary General of WANGO, Taj Hamad, was read by Press Union of Liberia Vice President Malcolm Joseph.

In the statement, Mr. Hamad said the future world would be a God-centered one of love and heart. "This culture cannot be achieved by military force or politics. The culture of love and heart will result from the arts, from hobbies and from sports, and especially soccer."

Mr. Hamad noted that young people can be most productive and meaningful when they concentrate on sports, adding that this makes them single-minded and truly exhilarated. He however regretted that "many youngsters focus on drugs, drink and sex which are destructive."

He added that Play Soccer Make Peace! is constructive, and is based on the ideals of faith, discipline, self control, teamwork and harmony which, he said, are also similar to the ideals of WANGO.

The WANGO Secretary General then called upon the participants to take Play Soccer Make Peace! with them and to share it with others, and "grow together with it."  We all like to win, he said, and added that "under the Play Soccer Make Peace! banner we can all be winners!"

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