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Made up of victims of the conflict and ex-guerrillas of the FARC, this soccer team is committed to the promotion of peace and forgiveness in the Colombian territory
On June 2, in the framework of the Second Normandy World Forum for Peace, in which five peace Nobel prize winners and delegates from 132 countries participated, a match was played as a symbol of reconciliation. The La Paz FC team faced the Bayeux and Normandy teams, and although they won one and lost the other, their message was clear: through sport, dialogue, and forgiveness is possible to have peace.
As Felipe Mora, president of the team, explains in a report from El Tiempo, "La Paz FC is a team made up of young people from different parts of Colombian society, who have lived and felt the scourge of war in our country. different armed groups that have left that sequel of pain and crying for so many years in Colombia".
The members of the team, then, are not only the direct victims of the conflict but also demobilized FARC guerrillas. During the game, the most vulnerable people during the Colombian armed conflict work together, whose Peace Agreement was signed in 2016. This way of promoting conciliation, according to Mora, is a way to "change bullets for balls".
On the positive effect on the lives of the players, Marlon, a victim of the Valle del Cauca region, told RFI after the game that "The FARC bombed the police a lot, so we were victims of that conflict that continued daily. My mother used to feed the police, I would go to school and I would have to run away because the house was constantly being shot. [...] I started playing soccer and thank God that beautiful sport has given me many things".
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How was this team born and what is its objective?
Before the Peace Agreement was signed, in the dialogues of Havana, a project called "Education, training, and culture for peace and citizen coexistence, football and peace" emerged. In it, was Felipe Mora, a lawyer specialized in Human Rights, who promoted the idea that sport could serve as a peacemaker. So, two years later, he created the Football and Peace Foundation, and from there it has managed the training of the players and the team matches.
On his personal motivation to create the team, in affirmations for RFI, Mora said that "I grew up like many Colombians listening to the painful news of an irrational war. A war that has marked us all Colombians very much. And there I thought I would find the way to a tool that would allow Colombia to get out of that hell and that horror of war".
It was not until 2017 that the team was officially created after the signing of a collaboration agreement between Football and Peace and the FARC. In this document, it is assured how the project is backed by the Government, as by the guerrilla ex-leader, Rodrigo Londoño, alias 'Timochenko', as El Espectador recalls.
After this, a process of recruitment of players on sidewalks that were previously occupied by the FARC was made, in order to form teams that included both victims and demobilized. Today, the team already has an elite selection of elders, a U-20 and a female, and even has a municipal stadium as headquarters, Luis Carlos Galán in Soacha, Cundinamarca. It also has the support of public organizations (Mayor of Bogotá, among others) and private organizations (FSS, Golty, Transporte Royal, etc.) and the endorsement of former President and Nobel Peace Prize, Juan Manuel Santos.
What are you looking for through football?
Among his greatest achievements, Mora remembers the game they played in Ibague. As it says in an interview with Confidential, it was there that "where for the first time in history Picaleña was played in prison with ex-combatants of the Farc and ex-combatants of the AUC, becoming this a day that is repeated every year". Thus, the team not only raises the dialogue between ex-combatants of the FARC and the victims of that conflict but also with actors of other armed organizations.
Beyond training players, the goal of the team is to generate reconciliation and forgiveness through sport by creating spaces for collaboration and participation as a party. For Mora, football is a pedagogical tool through which you can create commitment and educate on three pillars: Coexistence, tolerance, and respect. As he explains, "soccer has a transforming power. Not only because it changes the lives of young people, but also their social and family environment, and we have as an objective the prevention of forced recruitment, through the personal commitment that only sports give".
Finally, these initiatives that aim for reconciliation, prove that dialogue is possible, not only between a government and the guerrillas but between the victims of a conflict with their perpetrators. In this direct contact, in the promotion of collaborative activities, spaces are created for forgiveness and to lay the foundations for a new life in the post-conflict. In the words of Jonathan Celis, the left side of the team, in a video of the social organization RECON, La Paz F.C. seeks to "Leave the conflict aside, leave those decades of much war, take a step"
LatinAmerican Post | Juan Gabriel Bocanegra
Translated from "La Paz F.C.: cuando el fútbol se la juega por la reconciliación en Colombia"