June 20, 2005
June 25 Soccer for Peace event celebrates making goals, not war
BY Katherine Baust
Soccer for Peace will be held on Saturday, June 25, from 10 a.m.–4 p.m., at Candler Field, located at the end of Peavine Creek Drive. The event will include soccer clinics and exhibition matches, followed by a Sudanese celebration of traditional dance, music and food, guest speakers and an awards presentation.
Soccer for Peace will raise funds and soccer equipment for the Darfur region of Sudan, and promote the sport as a tool for building health and peace. It is co-sponsored by Emory and Soccer in the Streets, an Atlanta-based, nationwide nonprofit organization that develops soccer, educational and life-skills programs for at-risk children in urban communities.
The event is the brainchild of Susan Allen, professor of international health in the Rollins School of Public Health, who worked as an AIDS researcher in Rwanda from 1986–94 (she left because of the genocide) and still heads a continuing AIDS project there. Allen, who will not be at the event because she is working in Africa for the next two months, said she first became involved in this project after being contacted by Neil Shulman, associate professor in the School of Medicine, to participate in the series of panel discussions, “Sudan: Take Action,” sponsored by the Institute for Comparative and International Studies (ICIS) last winter.
At that time, the panelists discussed their experiences, perspectives, and how to get involved and contribute to solving the ongoing crisis in Darfur. The panel members wanted to build awareness and also contribute something tangible, while making sure they did not break any laws of contributing aid to a foreign military or to the purchase of weapons.
“From our talks we came to the conclusion that there is a lot of boredom and downtime in refugee camps, for the Sudanese refugees and the Rwandan peacekeeping forces,” Allen said. “The refugees are mistrustful of anyone [who] is a military force, and often [they] do not speak the same language. They may not understand the soldiers or believe that they are protecting them.”
Allen thought of using team sports as a means to combat the boredom at the camps and build trust between the refugees and peacekeepers while improving communication, teamwork and cooperation.
“Soccer doesn’t require playing fields or a lot of equipment,” Allen said. “So we decided to send soccer equipment to Darfur so that African peacekeeping forces may play soccer with refugees.
“As Dr. Shulman started looking into the idea and networking, he found other organizations that were doing this same thing, like Soccer in the Streets, which uses soccer to facilitate building bridges with inner-city kids,” she continued. “Soccer has proven to be an effective tool for promoting education, cultural understanding, responsible decision-making and healthy lifestyles among at-risk inner-city kids.”
Sudan native and former NBA player Manute Bol will speak at the event, in addition to Shulman, the event’s organizer, and Mark Bixler of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and author of The Lost Boys of Sudan. Exhibitions will include players from Soccer in the Streets and the Lost Boys of Sudan, orphaned children from southern Sudan, mostly boys from ages 7–12 who fled to Ethiopia for refuge in the mid-1980s to the early 1990s. They walked thousands of miles with no adult supervision and only themselves to protect each other from enemy militia, exhaustion and starvation.
Admission to the festival is free. Donations of any soccer equipment (new or used), or a monetary contribution to support Soccer for Peace and Soccer in the Streets, will be accepted. Cost for the clinic is $10 for all children ages 6–12. The rain date is June 26. Food and beverages will be available for purchase.
For more information, see www.soccerforpeace.net or call 678-993-2113.