Known for Violent Fans, Soccer Sees Glimmers of Peace

Tuesday, December 03, 2013
FARC delegates with football in Cuba (photo:

Often marred by outbreaks of violence among rival fans, the world of professional soccer is demonstrating how the sport can serve as a bridge to peace in two countries torn by strife.


On the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, whose Greek and Turkish populations have been divided for decades, two soccer organizations have come together on what’s been called a “landmark agreement” that could result in the reunification of the sport after 58 years.


The Cyprus Football Association (CFA) and the Cyprus Turkish Football Association (CTFA) announced plans to work together, in which the CTFA would become a member of the CFA.


“A major milestone in the history of Cypriot football was reached today, November 5, 2013, with the signing of a provisional arrangement for the organization of football in Cyprus…,” an official statement from the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) said.


It was later reported, however, that Turkish officials said the agreement was merely a draft and that some changes would be required before the CFTA was completely onboard.


Following the news out of Cyprus, a similar soccer-for-peace announcement came out of Colombia. There, the country’s largest rebel group, FARC, accepted a challenge from soccer legend Carlos Valderrama to play a match for peace.


Valderrama, retired from the sport, has been working with a state program helping victims of the Colombian civil war.


After receiving the former star’s declaration, FARC leaders said they would participate in soccer matches to help foster reconciliation between them and the government. In an open letter, the group confessed to being “fanatical about football” and noted that its members play the sport between negotiating sessions with the government.


The first game will be played in Cuba, where peace talks between the two sides are taking place. If all goes well, more games may be scheduled in Colombia, including those involving women.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Landmark Deal for Cypriot Football (by Peter Stevenson, Cyprus Mail)

Colombia Farc Rebels to Play Valderrama Peace Match (BBC News)


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