Latin America

Youth from conflict areas find refuge in football

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Youth from war-torn areas in Mindanao find refuge in football. A group of Marines finds a way to use sports as an instrument of peace.

MANILA, Philippines – Youth from war-torn areas in Mindanao find refuge in football.

A group of Marines finds a way to use sports as an instrument of peace.

David Lozada reports.

Can sports pave the way for peace?

For the past decades, peace has been elusive in conflict areas in Mindanao. Now, they are fighting the war in a different battlefield – football. Sulu-based marines started Football for Peace because they wanted to teach the youth of Sulu a way out of the cycles of violence and poverty.

The program’s founder, Lt Col Stephen Cabanlet, says the program has given impoverished children a crack at a decent future. Now, finishing their education and playing professional football is no longer an impossible dream.

LT. COL. STEPHEN CABANLET, PHILIPPINE MARINES: The medium is football but we can go deeper. Aside from character development, we can go into scholarship, educational .program. Ang vision na nga nila is hindi lang maging good football player pero good citizen eh. In that way they can help their community sa nakuha nilang values sa paglalaro ng football. (Our vision was not only for the children to be a good football player but more importantly, a good citizen. In that way they can help their community with the values they got from the sport.)

The campaign expanded to other provinces like Palawan, Tawi-Tawi, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, and Zamboanga. Thousands of balls have been donated.

But with rough fields and heavy use, the balls never seem to last long.

Responding to the need for stronger balls in the football clinics, One World Futbol and Chevrolet Philippines donates 2,400 indestructible footballs. The balls can survive the harshest environments, never go flat and don’t need to be pumped.

Chevrolet Philippines president Alberto Arcilla hopes the balls will help shape the children’s future.

ALBERTO ARCILLA, CHEVROLET PRESIDENT: I personally believe that sports always bring out the best in the youth, individuals. We just want to contribute in their growing up, in having direction, enjoying their being kids.

The Marines are now looking for ways to support the college education of the children who join their football clinics.

LT. COL. STEPHEN CABANLET, PHILIPPINE MARINES: Hindi lang naman din bola ang pangangailangan namin. Marami ring kailangang support para sa scholarship nila. Support para sa mga training equipment, support para doon sa training sa coaching level and teaching leve ng mga marines na magtuturo. (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.)

The road to peace is not easy and Cabanlet admits there is a lot of work to be done.

The marines say this sports program is a significant step towards building peace in Mindanao. Aside from mending disputes between communities, football also teaches the children to dream. The soldiers also say they will continue to promote peace through sports, hoping to prove that not all wars are won with guns.
David Lozada, Rappler, Taguig. –

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