An International Soccer Peace Tournament organised by Catholics has brought together “South Africans, immigrants, and fans from around the world, united in the greatest challenge, peace.”
"We want to involve all South Africans in the world, especially those who remain on the margins of this event," Antoine Soubrier from the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference explained to the news agency Fides.
He continued: "We've organised a parallel World Cup, to complement the official one, with the soccer teams from all the realities of South Africa, from the townships to the more affluent neighbourhoods."
“The aim is to bring together fans of different social classes, different ethnicities, and national origins as well as fans from all over the world," said Soubrier.
The Soccer Peace Tournament is international in scope. A total of 64 players from 16 countries will play every Saturday morning through to 3 July 2010. It began on Saturday 5 June.
The event is taking place in the poorest part of a Pretoria township on a locally designed football pitch. Four teams have been created out of the two best teams of Atteridgeville, together with migrants living in South Africa and fans arriving for the World Cup.
The final of the 'alternative' competition will take place on 3 July.
"In this way the South Africans can get to know each other better," says Soubrier. "In the last tournament, there were white South Africans who set foot for the first time in a township. And the results are very positive. We place much hope in this initiative to promote peace and understanding among all."
"Among the participants there are also immigrants and refugees living in South Africa in a difficult situation. Several fans from countries such as France, the United States and Turkey have applied to join the Peace Tournament and the life of the local church during their stay in South Africa. We are confident that this will bring new spiritual wealth to South Africa, throughout Africa and the rest of the world," the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference spokesperson said.
"We want to use football to advance the goal of peace, and form relationships within groups and between individuals, who understand the importance of non-violence, empowerment and peace education," Martin Mande, a spokesperson for the peace tournament, told ENInews on 9 June 2010.
He said that the parallel world cup organisers had seized the opportunity offered by the FIFA competition to spread the values that societies need, especially in Africa.
With acknowledgments to Agenzia Fides