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Equatorial Guinea: promoting a culture of peace through sports

UNICEF/Eq. Guinea/2008/Benlloch
© UNICEF/Eq. Guinea/2008/Benlloch

Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, 12 November 2008 - Children, sports and peace. These are some of the ingredients of the match which took place last 8th September at the new Stadium of Malabo, which represented the starting signal for the initiative “Sports and Peace”. Under this title, coaches, physical education teachers and youngsters of the country will become the Ambassadors of a culture of tolerance, citizenship, dialogue and peace through a series of activities which will take place from now until the end of the year.
Equatorial Guinea making its debut in this type of initiatives but despite its little experience, it is very keen. Cornelio Esono Nsue is 14 years old, and since he was 7 he has been inseparable from his football. Today has been a great day for him, being surrounded by “the great ones”, that is the Nzalang, the national male football team of his country, and he is more motivated than ever to become one of them and to bet on sports, which is communication, understanding and peace.

For Cornelio, this is definitely a start and he knows what is the little contribution that he can make: “to be the Ambassador amongst his colleagues and encourage them to do more sports, pushing to one side bad habits and growing with values such as justice, tolerance and respect”.

Facing Cornelio is Rodolfo Bodipo Díaz, who after years of playing in the Spanish league, is today the Captain of the national male football team of Equatorial Guinea. He is one of the “mirrors” in which hundreds of Equatoguinean boys and girls are looking up to and being aware of this, he did not want to miss the opportunity to join this “Sports and Peace” event and also to become a voice to help achieve things as important as the improvement of the lives of teenage boys and girls, in healthy environments and without violence, as tomorrow, they will be the men and women of our country.

In this transition road from children to adults, Vicente Engonga Mate, recently appointed coach of the national male team and former player in Spain, is clear about the fact that children in this country have something that makes them special and different from those from the north, and that is: their extreme motivation. And this is exactly the part that makes these initiatives which stimulate sports, peace and the promotion of human values, a success.

As it is clear that Sports and football are not only for boys, and that the presence of girls and women is essential to promote equality and peace, this initiative does not miss the opportunity to lead the next female African Nations Cup (ANC) which will take place in November in Equatorial Guinea. Therefore, national female football team also joined this “Sports and Peace” event.

Sports: Benefits vs. Conflicts

We know very well all the benefits sports have on health and its importance in the development of a child. We are also aware of the emotional side which drives sports, regardless of the type or where it is practised; it promotes values such as sportsmanship, justice and integrity; it also promotes the effort and respect; and helps with the handling of the victories and the defeats.

In addition, sports today are an alternative to other harmful activities such as drugs and delinquency or risky sexual behaviours. It manages to draw in an endless number of spectators of any age and gender, of any colour, nationality or religion without barriers of any kind, and offers room for dialogue, to eliminate tensions and the exclusion of the most vulnerable social scales and to transmit messages which will raise awareness and sensitize the whole of a population about health and prevention of illnesses such as HIV or malaria, and about peace and the value of finding non-violent solutions to the problems of today.

The Captain of the female national team, Mirei Sinforosa Eyang, is aware that sports also bring about difficulties and conflicts because it is part of our society. In her case, when she is in the middle of the field, she is aware that - as well as her colleagues - she is there to do a good and a clean game, which is one of the main values, and that under no circumstances could these difficulties exceed the benefits sports bring about.

Today Mirei and Cornelio are a part of a movement which is bringing together the Government, the Civil Society and the United Nations in Equatorial Guinea, to close ranks on achieving a more just, tolerant and egalitarian present and future for its children.

by Isabel Benlloch



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