Tempers might flare and passions most certainly run high, but there are few sports in the world that create the same sense of unity that Football does. A sport beloved throughout the globe, and one which fosters an inherent sense of pride and excitement, football has also been long-held as the great equaliser, with players and fans alike coming from all nations and backgrounds to form a greater global community. So what greater purpose could the game serve than to foster international relations on a community level?
Football for Peace is a global charity organisation set up by Northampton FC Defender (and Pakistani International Team globetrotter) Kashif Siddiqi. The organisation is a non-political movement which was created to fulfil three mission aims; create dialogue, transform attitudes and unite people. Hoping to create a neutral ground between warring peoples, Football for Peace smashes down cultural and geographical barriers by (quite literally) offering a level playing field for its participants.
The global Football for Peace project began in 2013 and was influenced heavily by the work of FIFA legends Elias Figueroa and Steve Leighton and their campaign Fubol por la Paz (lit. “Football for Peace”) which ran in the Americas. Siddiqi also drew influence from his own mother’s history escaping the presidency of Idi Amin in Uganda to extend the spirit of what had been achieved before to bring it to Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa and the Far East.
Now with a global reach, Football for Peace works to help individuals in culturally complex areas where dialogue has broken down, using football as a common ground for the foundations of conflict resolution. Working with central governments, Football Federations, local councils and schools, the group creates situations where neutral and comfortable territory can be established to bridge the gaps between individuals and groups. As no two people are the same, neither are two disagreements – as such, the group always strives to carefully consider each plan of action it implements, ensuring that each course taken is the best for that particular situation.
Currently active on three continents and working closely with eleven thousand “Peace Activators”, Football For Peace works closely with both local and international communities to help foster communication and promote lasting change. The organisation has three bases in the UK alone (Birmingham, Manchester and London) as well as bases in cities as widespread as Los Angeles, Monaco, Singapore and Dubai.
The Football for Peace Action Plan
Even with differing internal methods, Football for Peace still maintains a recognisable and easy-to-follow step plan which can help to establish ground rules and “stages” of a successful project. The stages are as follows:
- Identify individuals or groups who have become disenfranchised, no matter what background or age.
- Advocacy – Create environments which allow for healthy discourse and promote positive dialogues, emphasising mutual understanding and shared learning options.
- Develop and encourage ‘Peace Matches’ and ‘Community Tournaments’ to raise awareness of issues faced by the communities and create a meaningful dialogue.
- Activate a sense of reunification by creating a team which combines different communities, people and nations, which can then go head-to-head with the Football for Peace team.
- Legacy – Foster a sense of legacy by engaging in the ‘Cities for Peace’ programme. Challenge mindsets and difficulties by engaging and educating communities with workshops and sports diplomacy toolkits, as well as creating Youth Ambassadors to carry on the message of the group.
This action plan schematic allows for easy implementation around the globe. Football for Peace doesn’t just rely on its own internal organisers to expand its reach, but also encourages others to get involved and promote their cities as part of a “Cities for Peace” scheme. By setting up a “Cities for Peace” system, the group can have a greater effect on a global and local scale, able to involve itself directly with the people, through the people.
Unsurprisingly for such a huge and ambitious charity project, Football for Peace has attracted the attention and support from some big name footballers and celebrities. Among the big names supporting the project are Chilean football legend Elias Ricardo Figueroa, former England footballer Clarke James Carlisle and Scottish footballer, manager and pundit Ally McCoist MBE. During the organisations travels around the globe, they have also been able to get support from world-renowned figures including Pele (who supported the charity’s “10 cities, 100 schools” campaign), HRH Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan and Prince William in the UK.
With global scope and a local-level of activism and engagement, Football for Peace has fast established itself as one of the UK’s best charitable organisations and one which has a strong unifying message of positivity. Inherently recognisable regardless of culture, the project is a constant reminder that with the right sense of communication and global community, anything can be achieved.