Second annual Liberian Peace Dream Cup demonstrates the power of sport to build peace
After a devastating 15-year civil war that left people and communities in physical, economic and social disarray, Liberia is a country on the mend. While the country works hard to rebuild villages, roads, and communications infrastructure, the children of Liberia are learning that inclusion, teamwork, and trust can play a crucial role in their own development.
"When I play sports I am able to express myself more fully. I feel a strong bond with my teammates."
Agnus, Vahun District
Joining millions around the world in celebration of International Day of Peace, Right To Play Liberia kicked-off its second annual Peace Dream Cup on September 21, 2008 in Lofa County, Liberia. The two-week football tournament for children under 14 demonstrated how Sport for Development can play an important role and contribute toward national peace-building initiatives by having youth come come together and play cooperatively as part of a team. Sport and play, when used as a learning tool, can lead to outcomes far beyond the immediate thrill of victory.
In Lofa County, sport and play are quickly emerging as influential vehicles for lasting peace.
Rita (Teboman Quarter)
Thirteen-year-old Rita is never more happy than when she’s playing football. Having learned to play during last year’s Peace Cup tournament, Rita fell in love with the sport even though it’s considered to be a 'boy’s only' game in Lofa.
From her very first practice, she felt that the encouragement from her coach and fellow teammates helped her build the skills she needed to be a good player. She loves playing alongside her friends and feels like she’s part of the team. While she may have started it because her friends were playing, she continues to play often because it has allowed her an opportunity to have fun and to stay healthy. With all of the pressures of farm work and school, football gives her the chance to make new friends and to just have fun.
Esther (Teboman Quarter)
Esther is the team captain for the Voinjama Young Stars and takes her position very seriously. As a leader for her entire team, she sees her time with Peace Dream Cup as the beginning of a life-long quest to become the President of Liberia.
The Peace Dream Cup tournament has given Esther the opportunity she feels she wouldn’t have gotten anywhere else. The most important thing she’s learned from her coach and her fellow teammates is that respect for one another helps the team to learn and grow. She wants to win the tournament and believes that the team’s cooperation and togetherness will be what helps them to succeed.
Mary (Logan Town)
Mary started to play football last year because the boys in her neighborhood told her that she couldn’t do it. Since then, she’s been playing non-stop with the boys and girls that were on her team.
When Mary was faced with the negative comments and attitudes of her neighbors, her teammates encouraged her to continue to play. She was excited to play in the tournament again this year and to meet all of the children from the other districts throughout Lofa County.
Mary now aspires to be a famous footballer and to be able to be a role model to other girls in her community who also dream big.
Agnus (Vahun District)
Agnus is now comfortable playing alongside the boys.
"When I play sports I am able to express myself more fully. I feel a strong bond with my teammates," she said. Agnus even feels more supported by her parents as they see how quickly she’s improved since her very first practice on the field.
For a very long time, people in her community felt very strongly that girls should not play sports. But when the team got together in her village, the attitude started to change. Her neighbours and family started to see how much the children were enjoying practice and that it was keeping them out of trouble. Playing with a team that supports her has helped her to be braver in her everyday life.
Mohammed (Vahun District)
Fourteen-year-old Mohammed says that, "when girls are not included in football tournaments like this, they feel that they are not an important part of society." Since joining his team, he’s made it his mission to make sure that his teammates feel encouraged and supported as they all grow and learn together.
For most on the team, the Peace Cup tournament is the first time they’ve played in an organized tournament and even on an organized team.
Mohammed cherishes the opportunity to be guided by a coach and to have the opportunity to make new friends. His hope is that the tournament creates new and long-lasting friendships among the children from different districts.