UNMISS inter-university football tournament: scoring goals for peace
(Link to more photos below)
With the first match played on 2 March, the final of the UNMISS-sponsored inter-university peace league ended yesterday at Juba Stadium with University of Juba Team A overcoming the same university’s Team B. After a goalless do-or-die first half battle, Team A scored to win the historic tournament.
Amid ululations, cheers and blowing of flutes, the jubilant victors surged onto the stage after the final whistle was blown, jumping, chanting, and lifting their hard-won trophy.
“(Teams representing) the University of Juba, the Upper Nile University and the Catholic University have witnessed on the pitch the sense of unity of purpose by competing to score goals for peace”, said UNMISS Head of Political Affairs, Seth Kumi, who elaborated a bit further:
“The sense of purpose emanates from the manner in which one player passes the ball to another aiming at scoring a goal. In the end, the goal is shared, yet a loss will never split the teams apart.”
Building on the same analogy, Mr. Kumi expressed his hope that South Sudanese politicians will learn from their mistakes and forge a common national identity, a South Sudanese identity, by seeing to it that a (political) goal will never split them apart.
Professor Yoanes Edward, Deputy Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance for Upper Nile University, says South Sudan has now been living a crisis for more than three years, and that only sports seem able to bond the populace together as one people.
“Students – boys and girls – identify themselves with the universities they come from, not with the region, tribe or ethnicity they belong to”, he said.
Mr. Edward hopes that the three universities participating in the 2017 tournament will keep up the two-week-long, UNMISS-initiated event by making the tournament an annual affair.
Deng Deng Hoc, Minister of General Education, added to the choir singing the praise of sports as an important means to achieving sustainable peace, and he believes that the youth are the ones to make it happen.
“We expect the youth to play an important role in promoting peace, reconciliation, national healing, social cohesion and nation building, because they have the energy, the drive, the enthusiasm and the talent to achieve peace,” Minister Hoc said.
Reuben Inaju, a Public Information Officer for UNMISS, explained that the inter-university pleace league is an example of the creative ways used by the Mission to reach out to different segments of the population.
“In the twenty-first century, sports have become one of the most neutral forces in a conflict situation, and football has in turn become the queen of all sports,” Mr. Inaju said, explaining the rationale behind organizing the tournament.
He added that the main objective of the event was to show the participating men and women, and those in attendance, that people are able to put their differences aside and work as a team.
“Even if they fight on the pitch for 90 minutes, at the end of the tournament, no matter who has won it, they will realize that loving each other is equivalent to loving their country, so they will become our ambassadors of peace in South Sudan.”
The closing ceremony of the tournament saw the three universities richly awarded for their peace-promoting, athletic endeavours. Medals, trophies and certificates of participation were handed out, and there was much rejoicing.
South Sudan Red Cross and the Buluk Football Ground leadership were among those given certificates of appreciation their having played their important parts in a certainly unforgettable event.
The full photo galore? Right here.