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MANILA, Philippines – Sports can pave the way for peace.
This was the key message during the turnover of bright yellow One World Futbol (OWF) footballs on Friday, December 7, at the Philippine Marine Headquarters in Taguig. OWF and its local sponsor, Chevrolet Philippines, donated 2,400 indestructible footballs that will be used by impoverished youth in the marines’ football clinics across the country.
The balls donated by OWF are considered nearly indestructible because they can survive the harshest environments. They neither go flat nor need to be pumped with air.
Football for peace
Sulu-based Philippine Marines started the Football for Peace program because they wanted to teach good values to the disaffected youth of Sulu through sports. What started as their pastime eventually became their advocacy.
Lt. Col. Stephen Cabanlet, who initiated the program, said playing football also became an avenue for them to connect with the local communities. (READ: Football for peace: Sulu needs balls, not bullets)
“We asked also the parents to be involved. They were the ones helping us. Interaction between the marines and civilians became possible,” Cabanlet said.
The Marines slowly changed their image from “war-fighters” to being well-loved coaches.
“Our vision was not only for the children to be a good football player (sic) but more importantly, a good citizen. In that way they can help their community with the values they got from the sport,” Cabanlet added.
From having only one football for 100 kids in Sulu, the program has expanded to the provinces of Palawan, Tawi-Tawi, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, and Zambonga. With the help of various groups, the marines were able to collect footballs for the children. Rappler, through a crowd sourced campaign, donated 1,200 footballs to the program, which helped the Marines surpass the original target of 2,000 balls.
Cabanlet said the indestructible balls, which are made in Taiwan, will help sustain the program. The rubber balls they had in the past would last for only two-weeks due to heavy use by the players
Aside from teaching football, the marines also give lessons in English, Math and Science. Cabanlet said they want the children to be well-rounded.
“The medium is football but we can go deeper. Aside from character development, we can go into scholarship and educational programs,” he said.
As a way to reward those who excel both in sports and academics, the marines bring deserving children to Manila for educational tours and football training.
“The result is that there are kids who continue to train (and study hard) because they want to experience what others have experienced here in Manila,” Cabanlet said.
Cabanlet said the children see football as a way to a brighter future.
“Especially for the kids, the program gives them a chance to dream. (It gives them a chance to hone) their potential in school and in football,” Cabanlet added.
Because of the program, kids from Sulu like Sharifamae Gamuh, who is now a scholar at the University of Santo Tomas, are given an opportunity to pursue their dreams.
More work to be done
Chevrolet Philippines president Atty. Alberto Arcilla said the footballs are their company’s way to of showing their support for the Marines’ advocacy.
“I personally believe that sports always brings out the best in the youth. We just want to contribute in their growing up, in having direction, enjoying their being kids,” Arcilla added.
Aside from the Marines, OWF and Chevrolet also gave indestructible footballs to World Vision Philippines, SOS Children’s Village Philippines, Fairplay for All, Young Men’s Christian Association of the Philippines, and the Salesian Society of St John Bosco Philippines.
The Marines are now looking for ways to support the education of the children and teenagers who join their football clinics.
“The Philippine Marine Corps will continue its work. Of course, we don’t only need balls. We need scholarship benefactors for the children…and support to enhance the skills of the coaching and teaching level of the marines,” he added.
The Marines believe this sports program is a significant step towards building the peace in Mindanao. More than mending disputes between communities, football has taught the children to dream. Cabanlet said there is more work to be done but they will continue to promote peace through sports, hoping to prove that not all wars are won with guns.
Watch this report on #FootballforPeace.
Do you want to support the Football for Peace program? Contact Lt. Col. Stephen Cabanlet at firstname.lastname@example.org.