WASHINGTON, July 12, 2013 — The headlines were disturbing. In Brazil recently a soccer referee killed a player with a knife after an altercation and was in turn killed and beheaded by the angry crowd. In the United States a youth player struck a referee who later died due to his injuries.
Those who love the sport of soccer cringe at such stories and wonder what values these young people are being taught?
Well, hope may be on the way.
Robin Graham, a New York businessman and humanitarian, has founded Peace Club, a series of workshops in which soccer coaches are trained in 11 universal values found in soccer which can be translated to life off the field. Those 11 principles are: hope, commitment, self-discipline, enthusiasm, respect, cooperation, trust, creativity, initiative, responsibility, and service.
Graham has been invited to hold workshops for soccer coaches in Amman, Jordan, on Aug. 25, and in Ramallah, Palestine, through Aug. 28-29, at the request national women’s team coach.
For the last ten years Graham, 61, has been conducting “Play Soccer, Make Peace” youth tournaments in over 30 developing countries from Nigeria to the Gaza Strip. At these tournaments young people not only play soccer but are taught valuable life-principles that can help bring peace to their communities.
Graham has now set his focus on the coaches.
“Not everyone can be a champion in football,” says Graham who is based out of Irvington, New York. “But everyone can be a champion in life.”
Coaches in the Peace Club program explore how to give practical examples of the 11 universal values to their youth players that fit within their cultural context. After the upcoming workshops in Jordan and Palestine, the coaches will then introduce the program to their clubs and academies with the potential of impacting over 2250 youth players.
The ideas of the Peace Club are very much in line with FIFA’s recent youth goals. At FIFA’s congress in Mauritius in May, the emphasis was on tolerance, universal values and “helping the youth enjoy a healthy life and providing them with a range of life-skills that they will use long into adulthood too,” noted FIFA president Sepp Blatter.
There are almost 300 million people playing soccer around the world and the sport has a major impact on the world’s young people.
“What if each of these players can embody and pass on the values of commitment, respect and cooperation?” notes Graham. “These are just three of the values which Peace Club promotes and teaches”
In a sport, which is famous for tough competition and for fan exuberance, Graham hopes his Peace Club will help bring peace in some of the tumultuous regions in the world.
“Peace takes effort,” says Graham. “These young women and men acquire the values, and develop the attitudes, skills, and behaviors to become role models for other players, for their friends, for their families, and for their nations.”
“Play Soccer, Make Peace” was originally funded by profits made from the Peace Cup, an international mid-season soccer exhibition tournament for major professional soccer clubs held from 2003 to 2012 in South Korea and Spain. Since the Peace Cup has now been disbanded, Graham is in search of funds to help his program. To donate to the “Play Soccer, Make Peace” programs go to this link and see more information about the Peace Club.
“It’s about less talk, more peace,” says Graham. “Just as in the game of soccer, actions speak louder than words.”
John Haydon wrote a weekly soccer column for The Washington Times for 20 years. He has covered two World Cups and five Peace Cups and written about Major League Soccer from the league’s inception in 1996.
Follow John on Twitter at @Johnahaydon or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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