To drum up support for the peace process in Mindanao, the Philippine national men’s football team will teach children in conflict-affected communities about peace and sportsmanship through football, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) said over the weekend.
OPAPP spokesperson Polly Michelle Cunanan said the Philippine Football Federation (PFF), represented by the Philippine Azkals, had sealed a partnership with the government to support the peace process through the “I Choose–Peace” youth program.
This program aims to teach youths aged 8-12 in conflict-affected communities about peace and sportsmanship through football.
The PFF and the Azkals, who were named Ambassadors for Peace, will hold a peace caravan consisting of a series of football clinics and will dedicate all their games to the cause of peace.
“When children play, there are no religions or wars, just peace and football,” said PFF head Mariano “Nonong” Araneta, noting that even the Fédération Internationale de Football Association or Fifa had initiatives for peace.
Araneta said the PFF aims to establish a football center in Bukidnon to harness football players from Mindanao.
“Our sport promotes the same values that we hope we share with all the parties at the negotiating table that are working on a peace agreement,” Araneta said.
“All of our games, we dedicate them to peace in the country. We are partners in achieving greater consciousness of the peace process,” he added.
According to Araneta, the PFF will inaugurate later this month the Philippine Football Peace Cup, a tournament funded by Fifa. The Philippine national men’s football team is slated to play against teams from China, Taiwan, Macau and Guam.
Early this month, the Azkals took part in the kick-off of the observance of the 9th National Peace Consciousness Month with the theme “Ako. Ikaw. Tayo. Magkakaiba, Nagkakaisa sa Kapayapaan.”
The Azkals showed their full support for peace with a football clinic where about 100 kids from diverse backgrounds met the players and learned from them the basics of the sport.
Azkals team captain Aly Borromeo earlier said that teaching football to children was a “great avenue” to promote peace.
“Just like [playing football as a team], if you want to promote peace you need to work together, you put aside the differences,” Borromeo said.
Azkals member Jason Sabio stated the theme of unity and teamwork with the peace process.
“In the peace process, no one’s the same. It’s really about finding a way to explore everyone’s uniqueness to increase the welfare of everybody,” Sabio said.