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Youngsters promote social cohesion through football

By James Atem Kuir

Two teams of youngsters competed in a football match organized by national peace agency, Action for Conflict Resolution (ACR) in Bentiu town over the weekend to promote harmonious living among the communities in Unity State under the theme “Peace through cultural festival.”

The game played between 15-Brothers Football Club and USB Football Club drew together hundreds of excited parents and other members of the public to Dr. John Garang Square in Bentiu town to cheer up the 12 – year – olds as they competed against each other on Saturday.

Conducted as part of the ACR’s “Peace through Cultural Festival” campaign with funding from the Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA), the activity was also meant to raise awareness about the plight of children missing out on learning after being displaced to Bentiu town from other parts of the state.

“After leaving their areas of origin due flooding, these displaced communities are badly in need of basic necessities, and their children are even in worse situation, including not being able to go to school again,” said Peter Gatkuoth, ACR program manager in Bentiu town.

“These children need food, books, uniforms and sporting items to help them attend classes and integrate into town life. And most importantly, they need psycho-social support to help them heal from the traumatic events of displacement. They can move on to the streets and become exposed to destructive practices such as drug abuse and stealing if they cannot access learning and sporting activities,” he said of the children of the communities that came to seek shelter in Bentiu town after escaping flooding.

Bol Nger, a trainer of the young players, said engaging kids in sports was important not only for promoting good relationship among the peers but also for strong and healthy growth.

“Sports help players establish common understanding and good relationship. These children are going to become active, healthy and strong as they grow playing football,” he said.

After more than one hour of drama and cheers, the game came to an end with the host team USB Football Club beating the flood IDPs, the 15- Brothers Football Club by 1-0.

Paul Yak Ruai, a parent to one of the players in the IDPs team, said he was amazed by the performance his son’steam though they lost at the end.

“I am amazed at the way our boys played, it was wonderful! You know we were informed on a short notice about the game so our kids did not train enough, otherwise we gave them a hard game today and next time we shall definitely,” Ruai said.

Paul Ruai also appealed to humanitarian actors to provide scholastic materials such as school bags, books and uniforms to take their children to school.

Kai Riek, captain of the winners’ team, USB Football Club said: “The game was good. We are very happy because we won.”

“I have a new friend today from 15- Brothers Football Club. They are very good but they need uniforms and shoes.”

Riek Lino, a twelve-year-old captain of 15-Brothers Football Club said his team fell short of winning the game because the opponents had practiced enough than they did.

“The game was fair. They beat us because they have a lot of supporters. They are from the town and many people love football here. Also we did not train enough,” he said, and added: “We are registered in school but we do not have uniforms, school bags and shoes.”

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