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Soccer of the Heart

July 29, 2011


  • There are about 20,000 children in Colombia playing in the Soccer and Peace Network
  • About 17 non-for-profit organizations make up the national Soccer and Peace Network initiative

In Barranquilla (Atlantic), as soon as little Rosana gets home from school, she puts on her sneakers, t-shirt and shorts, and grabs her backpack and sunshield. Then she is off with her younger brothers to play the daily soccer match she is yearning for.

In Sutatausa (Boyaca), Diego spends the cold morning waiting for the moment when he will finally meet his teammates and play “Soccer for Peace”. Giselle, in Corinto (Cauca), wants to go to the neighborhood’s soccer field to learn about respect and tolerance with her teammates.

Like Rosana, Diego and Giselle, there are about 20,000 children in Colombia playing in the Soccer for Peace Network, a social development strategy that helps children and their families to improve their life skills.

The team with the most hearts wins

The strategies are quite simple and effective. For example, boys and girls play a “three period” match: in the first period, they agree on a given behavior based on respect, solidarity, tolerance and honesty; in the second period, they play a match where the team’s first goal must be scored by a girl as a sign of gender equity.

And in the third period, teams assess themselves regarding the agreements made beforehand and their behavior during the match. The team receives hearts for each goal and for complying the agreements made. The team with the most hearts wins.

Not only boys and girls of Barranquilla, Sutatausa and Corinto are playing in the Soccer for Peace Network, but also those of Bogota, Soacha, Medellin, Bucaramanga, Cali, Puerto Tejada, Calarca, Cucunuba, Cogua, Malambo, Genova and many other cities in Cundinamarca, Antioquia, Cauca, Choco, Codoba, Nariño, Putumayo, Caldas and Norte de Santander.

About 17 non-for-profit organizations are promoting peaceful coexistence, understanding, educational and social inclusion and the recognition of differences through soccer with the support of The World Bank —through the Japanese Social Development Fund (JSDF) - ; the German Development Agency (GIZ); and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Together, they make up the national Soccer and Peace Network initiative.

Soccer for Peace is an open network that began in 2010 under Expopaz. This peace-building experience fair was aimed at sharing, strengthening, learning and supporting the country’s different soccer working methodologies and creating opportunities for vulnerable girls, boys and youth.

A Mini World Cup for Solidarity

The network was launched on July 28-30 in Barranquilla, in connection with the U-20 World Cup. In the first Mini World Cup for Solidarity, the network succeeded in bringing together children, who like Rosana, Diego and Giselle, took part in soccer for peace programs throughout the country.

During this mini world cup, the team with the “greatest heart” was crowned for the first time. The event also launched the activities to be developed by the network, which aim at teaching values to Colombian girls and boys including respect, teamwork, gender equity and solidarity.

Through the implementation of the Kokoro Project: the practice of Soccer for Peace; training workshops in value building; health and nutrition monitoring and support; and entrepreneurship training for mothers; the boys, girls and youngsters of the Atlantic and their families improve gender equity in their communities and strengthen their own social and educational inclusion.