A documentary shows the importance of sports in uniting conflict-affected communities
Ismael Bikomati in Scoring for Peace.
“When I joined the rebels, I was 12 years old. I went there because we didn’t have enough food at home,” says Ismael Bikomati in Scoring for Peace, a documentary seeking to spread the message of peace globally.
Bikomati, an athlete with a contagious smile, is a high school student in Bubanza, a city in northwestern Burundi. He is a midfielder for his team and the captain as well. He is one of a group of 500 players from Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda who competed in the Great Lakes Peace Cup . It was organized by the World Bank during the spring and summer of 2012 to help former combatants rebuild relationships with their communities.
The documentary, which recently premiered at the World Bank in Washington, D.C., shows how sport can be instrumental in helping former combatants restart their lives and better assimilate into their communities. When Dieudonné Ntakirutimana, the coach for the Burundi team, asked his players why they had become such good friends, they answered: “We are all gathered around a little round ball. And we have to share it. One player cannot cross the field without passing the ball to the others.” Sport allows youth to share common experiences with their teammates despite their different upbringings or aspirations. At the Peace Cups finals in Kampala, Uganda, they met other youth just like them, who wanted to live in peace and celebrate peace by playing football or watching games together.
“We had all the elements of a great story: soccer, the most popular sport in Africa, a tournament bringing together former combatants from four different countries and players with very compelling stories,” says Sarah Farhat, the film producer and a World Bank multimedia specialist in the Africa region. “What impressed me the most was the willingness of these young men to share their stories and talk not only about the difficulties they went through but also the hopeful future they are building together.”
Unfortunately, the team was unable to film in the Democratic Republic of the Congo due to unrest in the Kivu region. “The history of the Great Lakes region has been one of continuous conflict," said Ian Bannon, sector manager for social development in the Africa region. "Using the prism of a popular sport like football in Africa, we wanted to tell the story of reconciliation and capture the potential of the human spirit to heal and create lasting peace."
Scoring for Peace does exactly that. It portrays the energy of youth in the Great Lakes region who are no different from their counterparts anywhere else. They also want an education, good jobs and more opportunities so they can grow, accomplish their goals, and help their nations achieve their fullest potential. The simple act of playing and competing with each other was instrumental in forming trustworthy relationships and tacitly uniting fragmented communities.
Watch the trailer :
“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to unite in a way that little else does,” Nelson Mandela once said, introducing Invictus, the film about the 1995 Rugby World Championship that helped pacify South Africa after the fall of apartheid. The power of Mandela’s words couldn’t be truer when watching Scoring for Peace.