94th minutes of the game, when the final whistle has been blown, whole country burst full of joys and tears. The 2-0 victory against the New Zealand has allowed Peru to secure the last ticket for the World Cup in Russia, making it for first time since 1982. Although ranked as 10th in the FIFA world ranking, world top class national teams such as Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, and Colombia have stood big in front of Peruvian’s dream for 35 years. But on the night of November 15th, the Peruvian national team, and the country, put an end to this bad luck streak and made history.
The whole country celebrated. The President of Peru even declared a nation holiday the day after the victory. As a sports fan, I have always believed in the power of sports. The excitement of the them can have an enormous power to unite people, and even lead to social change. In the field of international development, we tend to focus on the academic issues, such as national policies or economic theories. However, that social change is just a collective result of the change in every individual’s behaviour or perspective. In this case, the excitement of sports is something many people share and can lead to a greater effort in making change.
I would like to introduce one of my favorite soccer players, who has demonstrated to the world how the power of sports can change the world. His name is Didier Drogba from Ivory Coast. He is known world-wide not just for his glorious professional career in the Chelsea, but also by bringing peace to his country.
On October 8th, 2005, the Drogba led the Ivory Coast to defeated Sudan by 3-1, qualifying for the Germany World Cup in 2006 for the first time in history. Nonetheless, while the team was full of happiness, a west African country was in middle of a deadly civil war between government-held south and rebel-held north. After the game, Drogba picked up the microphone in the locker room and through the live TV, he plead the country to end the war.
Men and women of the Ivory Coast.
From the north, south, center and east.
We have proved today that all Ivorians can coexist and play together with a shared objective to qualify for the World Cup.
We promise you that the celebration will unite people.
Today we beg you, please, on our knees.
Forgive. Forgive. Forgive…
This country in Africa, with so many riches, must not descend into war like this.
Please… lay down all the weapons.
Hold elections, organize elections.
All will be better.
With the teammates, he asked the combatants to put down their weapons and cease the five year civil war. In addition to this, believing in the power of sports, Drogba negotiated with the government to hold international soccer matches in the north of Ivory Coast. Previously all the national matches had been hosted in the south. With the effort of this soccer player, he helped encourage the reunification of the south and north parts of the country, and the national match against Madagascar happened in 2007.
This is the power of sports. Drogba was able to bring peace to his country because of his fame and respect that he received from the population as a professional soccer player. All the excitement we have towards sports gave a player a great power to cease a civil war, which no one, not even president of the country, would have been able to achieve. And this says something to a country like Peru, where the social division still remains a major problem. The subjugation of the Inca’s by the Spanish, and tragedy of civil wars have left scars in the history of Peru. It still embraces a sense of discrimination and division amongst the ‘people from the coast’ and ‘people in the Andes’. Although the country has been trying to solve this issue, it is still a problem in today’s current society. However, just like the example in the country of the Ivory Coast, soccer helped unify the country. Two years ago, when Peru made it the quarterfinal of the Copa America (the most prestigious Latin American soccer tournament), the team captain Caludia Pizzaro tweeted the victory in Quechua.
“Ñoqanchis tucuyta churashanchis llapanchis cusisqa cannchispaq! Hatunllacta Peru!!, (We are giving it all, for everyone to be happy. Peru is a great nation!!).”
This Quechua tweet was retweeted 3.7K times, tackling the current social division and promoting the national unity and showing respect towards the Inca culture.
Sports is not just to provide entertainment, but also allows a possibility for making social changes, contributing to a sense of unity, and teaches team values. In the summer of 2018 in Russia, 32 countries will participate in the World Cup. Each team and player will be playing in honour of their country. I am sure it will bring the world joys, tears, excitement, and help unify nations!