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Soccer as a Conflict Resolution Tool

The term conflict resolution typically conjures up images of United Nations peacekeeping efforts, diplomacy, and mediation. Conflict resolution in its basic sense is a path to peace, a way to facilitate the end of conflict. It could be achieved through multiple approaches and contrary to popular belief do not need certified professionals to be involved. Soccer, also called football in many parts of the world, is not traditionally what one would picture as a conflict resolution tool. After all, it could sometimes be arguably a violent sport when rivalries get heated or when a championship title is at play.

So, how exactly can soccer help resolve conflicts? Soccer is a tool that could be used to unite a diverse group of individuals, serve as a therapeutic means of combatting trauma due to violence, and educate players with peacebuilding skills (Montgomery, 2014). It allows individuals, such as refugees, who have suffered trauma, a path to normalcy, allows them to build camaraderie with fellow players, and expand their social networks. Soccer, in this sense becomes more than just an after-hours pastime, as players gain leadership, conflict engagement, and problem-solving skills (Montgomery, 2014). Equipping everyone with these useful skills help prepare them for future conflicts and give them confidence to face these conflicts.

A study done by the United Nations’ Inter-Agency Task Force has discovered that sports such as soccer “serves as a positive and productive activity for refugees and internally displaced” individuals (2005). It allows them an outlet for the trauma they have experienced and problems they continually face as refugees. Furthermore, the UN Inter-Agency Task Force have determined that athletic programs, in general, could be utilized to “bridge the gap” between refugees and their host countries (2005). Soccer, specifically, is a sport which is played in over “270 countries” (Interpeace, 2017).  It is a sport that transcends multiple cultural and language barriers (Cohen, 2012). As such, it has a way of bringing people from many different backgrounds together. Additionally, it is a way in which participants are given the opportunity to build trust-based relationships with one another (Lea-Howarth, 2006).

At iACT, we are taking part in conflict resolution through our Refugees United Soccer Academy (RUSA). Our goal is to provide refugee children and adults a safe space to learn about teamwork, peacebuilding, and leadership while learning how to play soccer and improving their skills. To further encourage peace, we also incorporate refugees within the leadership of the soccer academies which provides them the opportunities to practice these learned skills and help them in future endeavors. Furthermore, it is part of RUSA’s mission to expand the refugees’ social network by connecting them with other youths and soccer professionals across the globe. Learn more about RUSA and how you could help.


Help iACT continue to do what it does best:

Support refugees in the forgotten corners of the world through soccer and preschool.

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