Unity, Peace and Reconciliation Through Soccer
By Omar Arturo Diaz, Goldin Global Fellow, Colombia
The “Peace and Unity festival” was initiated to use football as a fundamental element to hatch social ties, where different ways of thinking meet to look for new ways of reconciliation, social peace, and unity, so Colombia becomes the country we dream of. This year, we wanted to go further so we included some new activities, including discussion spaces, walking tours through our neighborhood, and of course our traditional “picadito” (local football matches between friends frequently played on non-professional courts). As a dissident family, we appreciate that popular football, peace, and unity need a conscious commitment from players, families, trainers, neighbors, and others who understand territory and sport as political and transforming ventures.
Keeping that in mind, in the last three years we have been developing the festival with the participation of different football, social, and political organizations. Doing so, we have built together a practical space where ideas, actions, and dreams are worked around the ball, encouraging peace and unity.
On 16th August 2022, the festival started with a forum where people gathered into activities, reflections, and ideas around popular football in Bogotá city. As a result, a regional link was built as well as the fostering of relations between participants, through dialogues and the stabilization of a common discourse. We were eager to keep creating dreams and envision a country where everybody can help without being condemned or stigmatized. Once there, we had the company of “Jaguar Rojo” and “Bukaneros”, two football schools that are already known in house.
Together, we looked forward to sharing ideas for what is going to be a new book, the name of which will be “Popular football: stories, actions, and reflections” to be published by our label “Imprenta rebelde”.
For the second day, we knew a lot about the soil situation in Ecuador from an interview broadcasted on “Ecos de Rumiñahui” radio station (fb.watch/fcQ9Ry0Jcy/). We took the opportunity to speak about former festivals as well and expand the discussion around football and its importance to build peace, especially in popular Colombian territories.
On the third day a group of female football players attended the forum, sharing from their title “Rebel football female players: between soccer and the academy”, where they explored the importance of women in popular football, especially against the idea that football is often considered as a masculine expression. These ‘rebel football women’ will also participate with their stories in our already mentioned soon-to-be launched book.
On the 4th day, we launched the first book through our self-management process created at our popular football school “La pelota rebelde”: “La pelota rebelde” publishers. Among other things, the book deals with the experiences of political prisoner and peacebuilder Jaison Murillo. The ceremony was made at the Bogotanian football temple El campín, and its public sports library. There, we had the participation of different points of view and experiences around prison, from people who want to transform the establishment.
The last day was covered by the main characters of our school: children, parents, grandparents, and all family – the rebel family. We enjoyed a kite festival where we tried to build consciousness about the territory around the Bogota River, highlighting that sports can also expose and remedy other issues that impact our town. This beautiful event ended with our traditional “Picadito por la paz y la unidad” (soccer match for peace and unity). We had 16 hours of consecutive football, which meant 17 matches. We also had some cultural events, where musical bands and artistic groups met at a local town court to declare peace and unity as fundamental to building the Colombian nation, the one we all dream of.