|© UNICEF Video|
|Traore Aziz, 13, lost both of his parents when he was just 10 years old.|
By Jonathan Schienberg
For the 2006 FIFA World Cup, UNICEF and FIFA are campaigning to ensure a more peaceful world for children. This is a profile of one of Team UNICEF's star players.
NEW YORK, USA – Three years ago, Traore Aziz had lost just about everything, including both of his parents. Just 10 at the time, Traore found himself alone, caught up in the midst of Côte d' Ivoire’s civil war. He was forced to focus all of his energy on day-to-day survival and could no longer do the one thing he loved most – play football.
“I used to love to play football all the time before the war, but I could no longer play when the war started,” he says.
Since late 2002, rebels have controlled the northern area of Côte d' Ivoire where Traore lives. A peace agreement between the Ivorian Government and the rebels was signed in 2003, but sporadic violence has persisted.
In desperate need of food to survive, Traore wandered into a rebel army camp looking for help. “During the war, I used to go into the camps and the soldiers used to ask me to go and buy things for them and bring them supplies, and they would give me food,” he recalls.
|© UNICEF Video|
|Since being placed in a UNICEF-sponsored educational and athletic programme, Traore has rediscovered his passion for football.|
Last year, UNICEF workers in Côte d' Ivoire intervened, negotiating Traore’s release along with the release of many other children, taking them out of the rebel camps and putting them into a UNICEF-sponsored educational and athletic programme.
Traore, now 13, was also reunited with his elder sister and is currently in her care.
Reunited with football
Tensions between rebel factions and the Government have subsided recently, bringing new hope to the region and rekindling Traore’s love for football. Although he is still saddened by the loss of his parents, his dreams for a future in professional football – like his Ivorian idol Didier Drogba – have returned.
“My life changed when I came to the UNICEF centre and I learned how to read and write, and got to play football again. My life really changed,” he says.
UNICEF estimates that over 30,000 Ivorian children have been severely affected by the conflict. For Traore, football has been a haven from the horrors of warfare. Many children his age, some of them his friends, have ended up as child soldiers.
Although he is still recovering, Traore says that being able to play football again means everything to him. It provides an opportunity to move beyond a childhood scarred by conflict.