Displaced teenager describes football as a “game of peace” on National Unity Day
Buay Mayuay was born in the town of Bentiu but was forced to seek sanctuary in a United Nations protection site when conflict erupted in South Sudan six years ago.
It’s not an easy life inside the camp. But he focuses on keeping himself fit physically and mentally by playing football.
“Our reason for being in the Protection of Civilians site is the desire for genuine peace,” he says. “Our movements may be restricted within the camp, but at least we are safe and can keep busy while we are waiting for peace.”
The 20-year-old’s passion for football saw him travel from his temporary home in the Unity region of South Sudan to the capital Juba to join 500 fellow athletes from other parts of the country in a special football tournament to mark National Unity Day.
The “Sports for Peace” event was organized by the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, with support from the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, the UN Development Programme and Japan International Cooperation Agency to promote peace and social cohesion.
While he performed strongly on the wing, fighting tooth and nail for his team, they unfortunately did not make it beyond the early stages of the competition. He insists that, even though they lost, the motivation for participating in the event made it all worthwhile.
“Football is a universal game of peace,” said Buay. “I even apologized to a competitor from the Torit team for the foul I caused against him. We continued playing after shaking hands and he is now my new friend.”
Buay stayed in Juba for a week with his fellow sportsmen and women as they participated in volleyball, wrestling, basketball and athletics. The experience provided some respite from life back in the protection site where he worries about his future.
“Here we share the same food, move and celebrate together. We sleep safely together with my new friends.”