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How Sport For Development and Peace Works (Pt 1)

Some of us from The Kick Project team were in a meeting with potential partners recently, when we were asked a question about “Proof of Concept” of sport for development and peace. The context of the question was that we were talking about sport for development and peace - especially football - but we weren't putting the pieces together. As she said, “It's all good. But I don't see how this works. How does sport and football generate peace and development? What's the proof of concept?”

It made us think: it can be easy when you're working away on your stuff to lose touch of your context. In this case, this person was someone who wrote grant applications. She wanted to know how she would sell our concept to attract funding. Completely fair enough.

So, we (hopefully) addressed her concerns at the time and took her concern on notice for next time we spoke. Debriefing afterwards, we realised there may be others out there who don't quite see the links between sport and peace and development. We agreed we need to work harder on contextualising what we do.

As a means of doing this, over the next 5 days we'll outline the top 5 ways sport works positively on peace and development, as we see it.

Today, it's how sport brings people together.


“Sport is a social glue,” says anthropologist Dr. Gerhard Hoffstaeder, in our promotional video for The Rohingya Football Club.

As he puts it, sport for those living as refugees or as newly arrived migrants helps to provide a space for people from similar communities to get together in a light and informal manner.

In new environments, new arrivals may not have established a safe space to interact, such as a club facility, cafe, markets or even an extended family, as they may have had back home. Sport draws people together and offers a common activity – watching and/or playing – and is centred on an activity that is easily set-up and set-down and needs little personal investment to be involved.

Also, sport provides a means for new, disadvantaged or marginalised communities to reach outside of their own confines and establish links to other communities. In cases of refugees new to a host country or in situations of conflict (pre-, existing and post-) sport therefore has within it the means – we might say a reason or an excuse – to get together despite existing barriers and to share something that is both fun and socially engaging.

In conflict scenarios, sport offers a common ground which while competitive, is shared and agreed upon. Sporting activity between rival groups can, when well-structured and intentional, provide a kind of middle ground where differences can be overcome, tensions dissipated and disputes - hopefully - curtailed.

More on how sport for development and peace works in the coming days.


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