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Sports: A Psychology of Aggression? Or a Promoter of Peace?

By - Jun 12 2014

Watch this video to hear how the kids in Sports for Development programs visualize their futures. (In Spanish and Portuguese)

Find the link to this video within the text to hear how the kids in Sports for Development programs visualize their futures. (In Spanish and Portuguese)

Folks, it’s time to finalize your Panini sticker albums, hang your flags and dress in its colors. Why? Because at last, tomorrow at 5:00 pm EST, four years of anticipation will come to an end as the Brazilian and Croatian national teams gather to kick off the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

The most viewed sporting event in the world, the World Cup and the game that defines it are manifestations of many things, love of country and love of sport among them. But could they, too, become a manifestation of peace? Amidst preparations for the Cup, Honduran defender Victor Bernardez discussed the rampant violence in his home country and the childhood friends he lost to it. It truly is an impressive tale, how so many of the boys he grew up with fell victim to dangerous paths and he, due to his love of soccer, was able to save himself.

Yet despite success stories like Victor’s, thousands of young people do not escape their violent circumstances. And rather than highlighting ways to help them, the topic of violence in sports too often trumps as a media favorite. With such infamous incidents as the 2013 death of a Dutch linesman and assault of a Spanish referee, it’s no wonder journalists, psychologists and fans alike ask the question –are sports defined by a psychology of aggression? Or, as we analyze here, can they be a tool for peace?

In Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), football is the ultimate unifier, bringing all races, classes, and creeds together around the sport they love. Plagued equally by a need to enhance citizen security, LAC has a unique opportunity to harness this love for sport to promote safety. Committed to this concept for nearly a decade now, the IDB has built a robust Sports for Development program, teaming up with partners to tackle tough social challenges through sports. In anticipation of tomorrow’s kickoff, we want to share a few of these partnership stories in hopes that you, too, will see the potential of sport to encourage peace.

Our first story takes us back to Colombia, where a pioneer partnership between FIFA, the Coca-Cola Company, Fundación SIDOC, Colombianitos and the Colombian government supported two communities wracked with violence in Bogota and Cali.

Fast forward a few years to Uruguay, where the IDB with the support of , the government of Korea, FC Barcelona and Fundacion Celeste, along with the Uruguayan national team players that founded it, allied to help at-risk youth build brighter, violence-free futures.

Finally, look ahead to Mexico, where the IDB with the support of Korea, FC Barcelona, PepsiCo, and Fundacion Rafa Marquez will support Rafa Marquez’s efforts to help children and youth in marginalized communities improve their quality of life by taking them away from social vices and violence.

Though these target communities are scattered across the region, they share three common threads: they are characterized by poverty and violence, and united, at the very least, by a love for LAC’s favorite game: football.

Perceiving this sport as an ideal vehicle to combat violence, the partners targeted children and youth through structured football activities. But how, you may be wondering, in communities experiencing violence, could a sport that sees violent outbursts promote just the opposite?  We believe a three-pronged approach: providing fun, safety, and values.

To begin with, a partial cause of these violence problems lies in that these youth do not have much to do. They leave a day of school for an evening of idleness, with little distraction or protection from community violence. In filling this entertainment void with soccer programs, the partners provide a fun pastime that serves also to keep youth out of trouble and out of harm’s way. More importantly, these activities show participants that they can and deserve to feel safe at all times, ingraining in them a belief in non-violence that can inspire good and productive citizenship.

“Success is no accident,” renowned footballer Pele once said. “It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice, and most of all, love of what you are…learning to do.”

It is this that sport offers youth in the end—this inspiration, sense of leadership, concept of discipline, and deeply rooted determination to work for a better self, a better life, and a better community every day. The Sports for Development methodology encourages these values, and imparts them to participants as they play a game they love.

The results of these efforts are a reflection of futbol’s very essence, a manifestation of what the sport truly has to offer. By providing kids a safety net and a ball, these partnerships promoted peace, provided youth fun and healthy pastimes, and instilled in them strong ideals that will last a lifetime. Hear from these children on how the game has changed their life, and reconsider the formative role athletics can play in their development.  

For a peak at Fundacion Celeste’s work with kids, check out this article and corresponding video. 

For a perspective on how sports can benefit young girls in particular, check out this blog post.  

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One Response to “Sports: A Psychology of Aggression? Or a Promoter of Peace?”

  • […] El partido lo jugamos en casa. Estábamos de local con una nómina de lujo. Un evento en el que se discutió sobre el tema de deportes y cultura para el desarrollo. Para este partido trabajamos de la mano con la Fundación Barcelona para hablar sobre la importancia del deporte y la cultura para mejorar la vida de niñas y niños de nuestra región. En el primer tiempo y por disposición técnica, se decidió que los titulares serían Josep Cortada, Director Ejecutivo de la Fundación Barcelona, Mauricio Heredia, Director Ejecutivo de la Fundación Rafa Márquez y Patricia Janiot, Conductora Principal de CNN en Español. Patricia cumplió su función en el campo de administrar la conversación. Durante este primer tiempo, el balón estuvo sobre el campo del proyecto que tenemos con la Fundación Rafa Márquez y Fundación Barcelona en México en donde utilizamos el deporte para reducir la violencia y promover la inclusión social. […]

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