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Showing posts from 2014

Football can Calm the Savage Beast (For 90mins...)

Just in case anyone doesn't believe soccer/football takes shape off the field, take a look at this take on the current tensions around Russia and its border nations. When Ukraine and Belarus played a Euro 2016 qualifier last week, politics came to the fore.

But, what is really interesting is that the game, for all the violence - both potential and real - put the blow-ups on hold. The violence here was around the game, not during it.

Sure, soccer/football can set off or be used to justify thuggish behaviour. But, the game itself - those 90 minutes between white lines - is rarely disrupted (I say rarely as it does happen).

The thuggish stuff would happen anyway, with or without any soccer/football, so it's unfair to blame the game for it. The game can take some credit though for putting it on pause, mostly, if only temporarily. That's a moment in which peace can take hold.

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Gaza Project Latest

Took delivery last week of our first batch of used balls and boots for our Gaza campaign.

Thirty-five balls and assorted boots of varied sizes were tipped our way by Caloundra City soccer club.

Club Prez Craig Russell told me as we stood in an empty football field as dusk and a storm approached that this is the biggest junior club on the Sunshine Coast, with some 45 teams. The team Craig coaches just fell short of the Grand Final, but finished a credible third in the comp.

So, thanks to Craig and the Caloundra City family for their generous donation.

Only 965 balls to go to reach our target....

Fortunately, we have received pledges from Kevin Milstein at the Reagan Milstein Foundation, The Sunshine Coast Churches Soccer Association and from Mark Acaster (who has helped us before) at Red Lion Football Tours, so we're gradually on the way to our target.

We'll rein them all in as we get closer to the delivery date.

We have an open call for balls and kit - used and new - and so t…

Africa, Peace and the Round Ball

Some peace initiatives using football have been promoting the cause of peace in East Africa.

Both programs, one UN-backed, the other run through Oxfam, speak to the power of the game to generate co-operation through play and fun, always the easiest route for humans to find solutions....

The UN project in Somalia aimed to commemorate World Peace Day later this month. The key message is this, I think, from Somali Football Federation President Abdiqani Said Arab who reportedly "sent a strong message to the UN requesting the world body to pay much attention to football which has so far been used as an element of peace building and yielded positive results."

Clunky translation maybe, but you get the point.

Not sure however what research Mr Arab may be alluding to as there does not appear to be a lot. Anecdotal evidence is fairly plentiful though and this may be what he was noting.

This program in Uganda, run by Oxfam, similarly utilises the ability of the beautiful game to allow p…

Korean Minefield

Recently, a game between North Korea and Finland became a political - yep - football.

During the FIFA Women's Under-20 World Cup in Canada, fans of Korean unification turned out to support the DPRK, aka North Korea, and to show their unbiased approach to the coming together of the two Koreas,  separated after the Korean War 60 years ago.

This was intended to make a non-violent statement, using the peaceful focal point of football as the vehicle.

All well and good you might say. Not for FIFA.

As you can read here in this eyewitness account, a FIFA official moved in and shut the support down.  The official cited FIFA regulations which require there to be no political statements in a FIFA sanctioned game.

This looks to be a can of worms, allowing hypocritical applications of the rule to suit common or accepted prejudices.

For instance, women are not permitted to attend many games in the Middle East (I recall a Socceroos World Cup qualifier some time ago in Iran where this was the c…

No Words Needed

Credit: New York Times Op-Docs

The Power of Grassroots

Not entirely sure I can say what The Economist is truly on about here. But, clearly, when that mag starts talking about football and big money, bringing in fancy stats and data, you know the business side of the world game is getting more and more prominent.
This piece in These Football Times also picks up on the increasingly powerful commercial trends in football and details the activities of Red Bull as it levers its way into European high level football - and elsewhere.
We all know its there and since at least the beginning of the EPL in 1992,  football money has gone stratospheric.
My concern is this. While the money players earn and corporations can take out of the game is a problem, the bigger problem is how the money skews the game away from its roots. Where's the money in junior football? Even more pertinent, where is the money to support struggling football leagues in developing countries and to fund youth systems? It really isn't there.
It's fine for us to marvel…

Football and Peace - At Least 100 Years of History

Last month commemorated the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I.

This war essentially began the modern era of warfare and began the shift away from simple line v line battles to more complex and changeable theatres of war. It also began the trend towards greater numbers of civilian deaths which continues today. In most wars now civilian casualties outnumber military personnel and wars are fought in largely civilian areas.

So, it's pertinent to recall this story of the Christmas Truce of 1914, which included spontaneous soccer/football games between soldiers on both sides of the trenches.

Maybe the UN and other bodies vested with generating peace in situations of war really should take off their suits, get out of the negotiating rooms and drop a football in the middle of the warring parties.

Word is the EPL is involved in putting on some kind of event to mark the occasion, which has been planned for some time.

Germany's World Cup Win Helps Heal the Wounds of War

I must admit, I wasn't as moved to gushiness by the German world cup performance as this commentator in Die Welt. But, I accept the contention that the win and the way it was done did much for a nation still questioning itself over two world wars. However, football, even if via a victory in its biggest event, has shown before it can medicate an ailing nation. While Germany wasn't exactly ailing before Brazil 2014, it is still stooping into its future by virtue of its dark past. If the World Cup win allows this generation of Germans to stand a little taller and walk more easily into the future without the burdens of their parents and grandparents holding them back then who can complain? While not allowing any of us to forget history, that has to be a positive for all.

Peace has to be good for the losers, even for the initiators of war, not just for the winners.

Read more here 

Gestures like this from Arsenal's German international Mesut Ozil will certainly help spread the …

Club Qarabag FK and Post-War Azerbaijan

The valuable role of this well known football club and how it contributes to healing in a region still recovering from war and ethnic violence is examined in Matt Gault's feature for These Football Times.

Read more here.
It's worth noting that so-called soccer wars where-by games between ethnically defined league teams become focal points for inter-ethnic tensions, have played a role in this region before, as this report from 2011 shows. 
I have also discovered an interesting looking text and photo book on the subject of war, peace and football in this region (the above photo is from the book) titled Offside: Football in Exile which is featured here.

We're Taking Soccer Balls to Gaza

The Kick Project has been on an enforced hiatus for a while. But we're back. And we've got plans.

We've all seen what's been going on in Gaza. The kids in the picture above were playing soccer on the Gaza beach a month or so ago. There was another boy with them outside of frame. They were all killed moments after this photo was taken by direct Israeli rocket fire. Their names were Zacaria, Aahed Bakr Jr., Mohammed and Ismail. They were all from the same extended family. The IDF believed they may be Hamas operatives. They are among the hundreds of kids killed, and the thousands of children wounded, often horribly so. And they, perhaps, are the lucky ones, for their suffering is over.

I was in Gaza myself in the early 1990's, and met many beautiful people there. I felt welcomed and very secure. Whatever the political context of what's going on there - I have my views on that for sure - the fact is that children and being traumatised and severely damaged - that&#…

Messi Speaks for Children of Gaza

Superstar Argentinian Lionel Messi has spoken out in defence of children in crisis during the bombing of Gaza by Israeli forces. As the UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador he is reportedly "terribly saddened" by the vents in Gaza.

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Soccer and the Post-Nationalist World

Interesting take on the World Cup and the break-down of national borders it purportedly represents.

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Big Names Line-up for Peace Friendly in Rome

Major stars like Lionel Messi and Zinedine Zidane are scheduled to appear at a game at the Olympic Stadium in Rome on September 1 in a Pope-endorsed game to highlight world peace.

It's unknown whether Marco Materazzi will be playing....

Read more here

Soccer Camp Brings Israelis and Palestinians Together

A camp organised by Soccer 4 Peace has successfully run a program in Israel aimed to bring kids from both Jewish and Muslim backgrounds together, on soccer's common ground.

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