Football teaches non-violence to Colombian street children

Football teaches non-violence to Colombian street children

By staff writers
19 Jun 2006

Football teaches non-violence to Colombian street children

-19/06/06

Club Deportivo in Colombia, a partner of the UK Christian aid agency Tearfund, is using football to help children likely to be caught up in violence to learn reconciliation skills.

The Peace Negotiators' Cup is a regular event put on to help children sort out their differences without reaching for a gun.

Some 1,000 boys and girls are members of the club which demonstrates an alternative to getting involved in the violence which claims some 3,000 lives every year in Colombia.

Features of the Cup include an absence of referees, meaning that children have to work together to arrive at non-violent solutions, and alliance building where children work on alliances with other teams, intervening when violence looks possible.

Danilo Valencia, 49, is one of the club's top coaches. He saw his mother stab a woman to death in the street and he in turn became a crack addict and thief. His 17-year-old son was killed in crossfire between the armed groups. He said: "Sometimes the social injustice people experience deepens their violent streak. With the club, the children enter a different dynamic than just hanging round the streets, carrying arms for adults or smoking marijuana. Becoming a good sports person is becoming a good citizen."

Johan Benitez was addicted to cocaine and carrying a gun by the age of 11. One of his brothers, who was a gang member, was tortured before being murdered. He would have gone on to seek to avenge his brother's murder if he had not been introduced to the club. Now 23, he is a football coach with the club and a professional referee. He said: "Playing football is absolutely key to keeping children from what happened to me. I would have been dead because of the life I lived. There were 40 people in my gang. There are only two of us left alive. Football is more than just a game. It teaches responsibility and respect towards team mates."

Steve Collins, Tearfund desk officer for Colombia, said: "Football is playing a crucial part in helping these young people learn how to resolve their differences without resorting to violence. They are getting skills which enable them to interact with each other and stand up for their rights in a way which emphasizes mediation and non-violent conflict resolution. Tearfund is privileged to work with a club which uses the beautiful game not just for enjoyment, but also to save young lives."

Club Deportivo in Colombia, a partner of the UK Christian aid agency Tearfund, is using football to help children likely to be caught up in violence to learn reconciliation skills.

The Peace Negotiators' Cup is a regular event put on to help children sort out their differences without reaching for a gun.

Some 1,000 boys and girls are members of the club which demonstrates an alternative to getting involved in the violence which claims some 3,000 lives every year in Colombia.

Features of the Cup include an absence of referees, meaning that children have to work together to arrive at non-violent solutions, and alliance building where children work on alliances with other teams, intervening when violence looks possible.

Danilo Valencia, 49, is one of the club's top coaches. He saw his mother stab a woman to death in the street and he in turn became a crack addict and thief. His 17-year-old son was killed in crossfire between the armed groups. He said: "Sometimes the social injustice people experience deepens their violent streak. With the club, the children enter a different dynamic than just hanging round the streets, carrying arms for adults or smoking marijuana. Becoming a good sports person is becoming a good citizen."

Johan Benitez was addicted to cocaine and carrying a gun by the age of 11. One of his brothers, who was a gang member, was tortured before being murdered. He would have gone on to seek to avenge his brother's murder if he had not been introduced to the club. Now 23, he is a football coach with the club and a professional referee. He said: "Playing football is absolutely key to keeping children from what happened to me. I would have been dead because of the life I lived. There were 40 people in my gang. There are only two of us left alive. Football is more than just a game. It teaches responsibility and respect towards team mates."

Steve Collins, Tearfund desk officer for Colombia, said: "Football is playing a crucial part in helping these young people learn how to resolve their differences without resorting to violence. They are getting skills which enable them to interact with each other and stand up for their rights in a way which emphasizes mediation and non-violent conflict resolution. Tearfund is privileged to work with a club which uses the beautiful game not just for enjoyment, but also to save young lives."

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 England & Wales License. Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.