The Convention on the Rights of the Child guarantees the right
to play and recreational activities to all children. However, millions
of children are denied this right, never experiencing this vital
aspect of their development because of war, disease and poverty.
||In Sudan, demobilised child soldiers
get ready for a football match.
UNICEF, in conjunction with FIFA, and several well-known football
players, such as David Beckham of the United Kingdom, El Hadj Diouf
of Senegal and Luis Figo of Portugal, is helping children around
the world fulfil their right to play through football. With a host
of organizations working on the ground, UNICEF and FIFA are targeting
hard-to-reach young people those driven from their homes
by war, for example with programmes that use football to
help them reclaim their childhoods.
UNICEF has found that football can help children recover from trauma
by encouraging their physical and emotional development. Football
helps provide a return to normalcy, fosters self-esteem, and encourages
teamwork, which can be a valuable tool in conflict management and
UNICEF in the Field
In southern Sudan, UNICEF has sponsored football matches for demobilised
child soldiers returning home from war and trying to reintegrate
into their home communities. Many former child soldiers, faced with
scorn from community and family members, often undereducated and
lacking vocational skills, and deeply traumatised by their combat
experiences, have difficulty returning to civilian life.
The UNICEF-supported football matches provide an organised re-introduction
to the community, in which children are not under pressure to talk
or explain themselves but can slowly adapt to their old surroundings
while working through tensions and aggressions on the playing field.
In Afghanistan, Albania
and Macedonia, UNICEF has helped to establish child-friendly
spaces in refugee camps as places for recreation and informal
classes for children.
|At the Maslakh camp, Afghanistan,
children are learning how to play again.
At the border of Afghanistan and Tajikistan, many children are
playing football for the first time in their lives. Because the
Taliban banned games, UNICEF workers are finding themselves in the
novel position of explaining to children what playing means. In
Herat, in western Afghanistan, UNICEF has also helped organize football
matches at the Maslakh camp for internally displaced persons, where
more than 50,000 children live.
In Liberia, thousands of children
have benefited from programmes which are aimed at providing war-affected
youth with life skills, as well as outlets to help heal the countless
emotional wounds of conflict.
In Sri Lanka, UNICEF has helped organize a 'Bridge to Peace' initiative
that will bring together Sinhala and Tamil children from opposite
sides of the country's civil war to play football. UNICEF is also
working with FIFA to provide footballs, nets, equipment, training
and coaching to needy children throughout the country.
During the 2002 FIFA World Cup, May 31-June 30, UNICEF will attempt
to negotiate Days of Tranquility in regions beset by
conflict, so that it can distribute school supplies and recreational
equipment as well as provide children with immunization and other