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Kids play for Peace One Day

About 80 local footballers representing four conflict-affected nations competed for the Peace One Day trophy in Battambang. Photo Supplied

Youth organisation SALT Academy organised a football tourney in Battambang Monday to support the annual Peace One Day

ACROSS the globe Monday, activists celebrated Peace One Day to support nonviolence and cease-fire by organising special events. Though not directly saving lives, Battambang organisation SALT Academy didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to join in a global initiative to help spread the message of place, and organised a local football event.

In front of Battambang restaurant “Vimean Riem”, chosen because of the flooding of local football fields, more than 80 players gathered to play for the Peace One Day trophy.

Four SALT Academy coaches were made presidents of either Iraq, Sudan, Mexico or Colombia, all nations affected by conflict. The presidents chose players to represent their countries, in either the U16 team, which included four female players, or the seniors team.

After the first round of games, the presidents invited all players to listen to the problems their country faces. Though many players knew about Iraq already, they have never heard of the problems confronting people of the Darfur region of Sudan, and hadn’t realised the implications of the drug wars in Colombia and Mexico. The pictures of the Darfur refuges especially touched people hearts, as Cambodia faced a similar situation many years ago – a few of the players were actually born in refugee camps in Thailand.

The second round of games saw Mexico and Colombia battling hard, displaying some of that infamous South American skill. Though the Colombian seniors team held the edge with a 2-1 win, their U16s stood no chance, losing 4-0. On the second field Iraq again failed to take good chances early in the game, and lost 6-3 to Sudan.

Players think about peace
During the second break, the teams had a time of talking among themselves about how they can be active agents of peace within their communities. The Sudan group decided that, despite having little money themselves, they could try to raise a little to help refugees from Darfur.

All four groups saw the importance of being role models, staying away from cheating, lying and harmful substances – which all would eventually lead to conflicts – and violence. “As football players, the younger kids look up to us”, said one of the senior players. “So we need to make sure, not only for our own sake but for that of the entire community, to be good people, have good morals, and obey the law.”

Another group suggested that poems or raps should feature in next year’s competition, with organisers entertained by the prospect.

In the third round of games, Colombia and Mexico managed to win their games comfortably, and with both teams topping the table with 13 points, Mexico were declared winners of the 2009 Peace One Day Cup thanks to their superior goal difference.

The organisers hoped that all the participants not only remembered the peaceful atmosphere and fun football, but will practice the message of peace in next year’s Peace One Day. Eight years ago, the 192 member states of the United Nations unanimously adopted September 21 as an International Day of Peace.



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