Football tournaments without competition

[21 June 2012] - At this time when the European Football Championship 2012 is attracting everyone’s notice, Terre des hommes wants to look away from these events and draw people’s attention to other football competitions organised by various Tdh delegations all over the world, by putting the spotlight on some tournaments unknown to the general public, but whose challenges pass the context of simple entertainment.

Tdh in Sudan organised a contest where young Sudanese from the displaced persons’ camps of El Geneina took part. The kids from the surrounding villages were also invited to take part in the matches in March and April 2012.

This competition made it possible for the refugees and the local community to draw closer through their common passion for football. Friendships were established between the youngsters of the different communities on the basis of respect and solidarity.

Whilst the project differed from the original by introducing the concept of ‘fair play’ so as to improve relations between the kids from the displaced persons’ camp, the experience naturally grew far beyond the camps.

In a similar way, but in a completely different context, the Tdh delegation in Benin financed an inter-school competition in the Zakpota community. The coordination of this event was done by the pupils’ associations of six schools; these Youth Clubs are charged with promoting child rights in their institutions and bringing various forms of support to their schoolmates, like homework support or psychosocial games.

In the present case, the aim of this activity was to support each college to get a football team in order to take part in the school championship, and to develop their team spirit so as to strengthen the solidarity between the members of the villages. The competition managed to get 200 spectators per match, including parents, peers and friends.

These experiences show the importance of the values carried by football. Tdh, in partnership with the UEFA and other NGOs, has understood this lesson well. And so the Romanian capital welcomed a football championship for 100 youngsters with different ethnic and social origins.

The watchword for that day was to favour cooperation over competition and to advocate tolerance instead of exclusion. Numerous VIPs from sport and Romanian culture also took part in this activity to unanimously denounce racism. Each one of the participants understood well that the fight against racism already starts on the playing fields.

Far from the media hype engendered by the Football Euro, these tournaments tackle the fundamental needs of the individuals most exposed to social and identity deprivation. The positive results of our football-type projects, show the importance of adopting socio-educational measures through sport in regions where social cohesion is often lacking.

From a more unusual point of view, football is also of service to the staffs of NGOs working in the field and living through difficult situations. In Haiti, for example, the inter-NGO competition is being re-started. Tdh is unbeaten in over six matches and can count wins against the UNICEF and the Red Cross teams.  

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