Soccer & Changing the World

As the World Cup in South Africa approaches, the world’s attention directs itself to soccer players, teams, long time traditions, statistics, and the stories of those who have used soccer to change the world. I recently read an article, Soccer Savior, about Ivory Coast’s Didier Drogba.  The article does talk a lot about soccer and Ivory Coasts journey to the World Cup, but it also talks about Drogba’s use of his soccer fame to bring peace to his country. In countries like Ivory Coast soccer is the biggest sport and players are their movie stars. Their influence is tantamount to government and tribal leaders. After qualifying for their first World Cup in a 3-1 victory over Sudan in October 2005, Drogba delivered this impromptu message, “Ivorians, men and women, from the north and the south, the center and the west, you’ve seen this,” Drogba announced, his words halting at first but then quickly gathering strength. “We’ve proved to you that the people of Ivory Coast can live together side by side, play together toward the same goal: qualifying for the World Cup. We promised you this celebration would bring the people together. Now we’re asking you to make this a reality. Please, let’s all kneel.”

We when we go to the refugee camps, we play soccer with the children. They laugh, they run, they pass and score. They have fun. I can’t help but think that these short games offer an opportunity to relieve the stress of their daily life and the trauma they have suffered. I myself started to play competitive soccer after it was recommended to my mother that I needed an avenue of physical expression and release. I attribute much of my personality, including team building skills, leadership, and of course my attitude to years of club and state soccer. Even now I play on a womens team and at the beach with family and friends.

I know that the next Sudan soccer super star could be sitting in Camp Kounoungo or Camp Farchana waiting for an opportunity to play on a team, with a real ball. That player could be the key to bringing together Sudan after such a long history of division. I also know that so many more of the children in the camps could use soccer as a form of meditation, expression, and stress relief. i-ACT has a new idea, i Play Soccer United, that will establish soccer leagues in the camps. Help us by commenting on our idea. The more comments, the more likely the judges are to see the idea, and when judging begins, please vote for us. Soccer can change the world.

Katie-Jay keeps i-ACT running on several levels. Much of her work entails coordinating partnerships with other grassroots organizations and implementing the campaigns developed by Gabriel and seeing through the details. She graduated from Portland State University with a BA in Sociology and a focus on Community Development. She has previously worked as a community organizer in Thailand, Guatemala, and with grassroots organizations across the United States.

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