Manyang Mayom/Filip Andersson
Sports unite, they say. Football, the beautiful game and undisputed king as the most popular sport in the world, definitely does. The proof? Look no further than South Sudan’s Warrap State, where almost 7,000 people, with almost half being women, got together for a week-long tournament organized by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan.
“There were some brothers I had not seen since civil war broke out among our communities, but today we met and played football together once again. This [organizing the tournament] is a beautiful gesture, and I call on our state government to promote sports as a toolbox to prevent conflicts to plague our country”, said Manut Justin, one of the many players.
Local authorities were, in fact, involved in the competition, which hosted teams from Warrap State’s six counties, with support offered by county commissioners and the state’s Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport. There was something for those who don’t appreciate football as well, with both volleyball and basketball also being played.
At the closing ceremony of the event, Agok Ayar, Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport, called for the same coexistence demonstrated by participating teams among the different communities of Warrap State.
“This is truly remarkable. I am happy to see youth from often rivalling communities playing together like brothers and sisters,” he commented, while also commending the peacekeeping mission for the initiative.
Agor Malang, Commissioner for Tonj South County, praised the timing of the event, considering that some communities in his county have recently been more or less torn apart by violent conflict between themselves.
“Look, I can see clearly how lovely this is: sport uniting youth who have been fighting among themselves. Today Muok, Thony, Apuk Jurwiir and Yar youth are playing both football and volleyball on the same field, and this is indeed unique,” the Commissioner exclaimed.
Drici Toruko, a Civil Affairs Officers serving with the peacekeeping mission, was also pleased with the unfolding of the event.
“The values integrated in sports, like team spirit, fair play and the ability to connect people across borders, can be used by youth to embrace a national identity that overrides ethnic differences. United, they can push their politicians to speed up the implementation of the revitalized peace agreement and give citizens the stability they deserve,” he said.