Gameplan: Football clinic urges peace among different religions
Football for Peace, a program started by the Philippine Marines in 2011, aims to get children in war-torn areas in Mindanao to play football to keep them off the streets and develop friendships across regions.
This year, with the help of One Meralco Foundation, over 200 kids flew to Manila to participate in a football clinic with the Loyola Meralco Sparks. Gameplan host Graham Caygill, a former Sparks member himself, didn’t pass off the opportunity as well.
"Football for Peace, it started when the Marines in Mindanao were playing football and the kids saw this game and thought, 'This is a new game. This is different from what I’m used to,' so they came to watch. Eventually, they asked if they could join in and they started playing. They started off with 13 kids only and look at it now. There are nearly 200 kids here,” Graham shared.
It was a scorching day to be out on the field, but just the energy of hundreds of kids was enough for Graham to power through a series of football games, drills, and a friendly round of dodge ball.
"My favorite part of the day is just being with kids and seeing them all happy and enjoying the game that I love. It’s nice to see them play and improving and learning,” he said.
Like other team sports, football encourages camaraderie, sportsmanship, and unity among players despite their cultural differences.
"I’m half-Filipino, half-English, so I have so many different cultural differences; language differences. But really, football has its own language. So, it doesn’t matter that I can’t speak Bisaya. I can speak to them, with the way I play football. There’s different religions, different backgrounds, but it doesn’t matter. When you play in a football team, everyone has the same religion. The religion is football,” Graham mused.
"Football can contribute to peace in so many ways, just keeping them off the streets. They can meet new people and make new friends," Graham said.
"I hope that these kids keep playing football. Keep practicing. Keep improving. Maybe one day, they can even play in the UFL and even the Azkals. They can look back on this day and be motivated by the players they’ve played with and the people they’ve met. It’s just a great experience,” he added. – Rappler.com