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The soccer team you won’t see at the World Cup (Uganda)
an article by Oxfam America

The following has been adapted from a story written by Dorah Ntunga, Oxfam Novib (Netherlands), Information, Media & Communications Officer in Uganda.

Fired up by the World Cup, members of a local soccer team in Uganda get psyched for a match in Arua, where many South Sudanese refugees have fled for safety. Photo: Dorah Ntunga/Oxfam

click on photo to enlarge

As 32 countries compete for the World Cup title in Brazil, a different kind of tournament is taking place in northern Uganda. There, in the districts of Arua and Adjumani, young South Sudanese refugees have formed soccer teams to play for peace.

They are among more than 400,000 people who have fled South Sudan since fighting broke out there in mid-December. The conflict has dragged the world’s newest nation into a food crisis that threatens nearly four million people. Inside the country, more than one million people remain displaced.

“I never expected to end up in such a situation. I miss Bor, school, and my friends,” says 18-year-old Manyangson Ngong, the captain of the Lucky Start team from Ayilo settlement in Uganda. The fighting in South Sudan cut his studies short in Bor.

Ngong is not the only young person trying to cope. Of the more than 110,000 South Sudanese refugees in Uganda, 65 percent are under 18. With no schools for them to attend, these young people have had little to do, and often wind up fighting with each other. The soccer tournament is a refugee-initiated attempt to break that cycle.

To help, Oxfam has been helping to distribute soccer balls. It’s part of our work with two partner organizations: Community Empowerment for Rural Development (CEFORD) and Agency for Cooperation and Research in Development (ACORD). The work includes supporting the formation and strengthening of peace committees made up of refugees and the communities that are hosting them.

“A few of us started by kicking a handmade ball within the settlements,” says Ngong, explaining how the games first started. “Many youths showed interest to join us and before we knew it, the numbers had grown. We then decided to ask for space where we created a football pitch. With football, we are kept busy not to think over the bad situation and pain. Many other teams have been created. We are all from different tribes including the host [Ugandan] community.”

The biggest challenge, says Ngong, is allowing everyone to play since there are not enough balls or uniforms to differentiate who is on which team.

“It feels bad stopping someone from joining the teams when they want to. We have tried to divide the teams to ensure everyone has a chance to play,” he says. “With more support, hopefully we can grow stronger and start playing friendly matches with other refugees and teams within the districts. Who knows? I might meet some of my old friends among the teams.”

[Thank you to Janet Hudgins, the CPNN reporter for this article.]


Question(s) related to this article:

How can sports promote peace?,

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[Editor's note.  The following article was sent in to CPNN by Ron Davis, Assistant Coach Cross Country / Track and Field
The Ohio State University. ]

'Lost Boy of Sudan' still running at Northern Arizona
By Bob Baum, AP Sports Writer

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Lopez Lomong was 6 years old when, in the dark of night, he and three older boys crawled through a small hole in a fence and ran barefoot for three days to escape their Sudanese rebel captors.

Sixteen years later, in the pines of Flagstaff with a comfortable life he never imagined, he is running still. . .

Next week, Lomong, a sophomore at Northern Arizona University, will be among the favorites in the 1,500 meters at the NCAA track and field championships in Sacramento, Calif.

"I have to picture myself when I was six years old, running from the death I saw. " he said. "God brought me over here safe and gave me the opportunity and ability to run. . ...more.

This report was posted on July 4, 2014.