UN calls for support of sports initiatives in Somalia as tool for peace

6 August 2004

The United Nations team in Somalia today appealed to the international community to support sports initiatives among young Somalis to promote peacebuilding in the Horn of Africa country.

The call comes just as four Somali youth are returning from a two-week camp held last month in Spain with football powerhouse Real Madrid. The youngsters, aged 15 to 17, were selected following a month of tournaments involving 384 members of 24 football teams in different parts of Somalia.

"The scholarships from Real Madrid have given the four Somali youth the chance of a lifetime to develop their skills and meet counterparts from countries at peace," said Dirk Boberg, Assistant Resident Representative from the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in Somalia.

"Now is the time for the rest of the world and other international sports organizations to follow suit and support Somali youth through sports partnerships," he added.

Echoing this view, Said Leila Pakkala of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), said the experience of the football camp participants demonstrated that "the world has a place in its heart to support positive developments in Somalia.

The scholarships also represented an important part of the "Sports for Peace" pillar of the "Somalis for Peace" grassroots campaign, which calls on each of the country's citizens to work for peace and to demand the same from those who are in a position to deliver it.