Play31’s mission is to use the unifying power of football (soccer) to bring together people who have been torn apart by war. By organizing community tournaments and workshops focusing on human rights and conflict resolution, we contribute to the creation of peaceful societies where children can fulfill their right to play.
As all fans of the Beautiful Game will know, football brings out emotions. So, too in our tournaments; particularly when villages, who were enemies during the war meet on the field. This gives us an opportunity to facilitate the peaceful resolution of conflicts and to build on the initial contact by organizing peace summits where communities come together to officially put old grievances behind and look to the future. Our workshops build capacity among our Peace Ambassadors who serve as role models and share their knowledge about conflict resolution and basic rights.
On a typical match day, games between the girls, boys and junior teams are played throughout the day. After the matches, players and fans get together for communal dinners and the day ends with a big “disco” which lasts until sunrise. The host community allocates huts for the guests and as such the participants end up not just playing, dining and dancing together, but even spending the night in the same village. These activities are often times the first steps toward reconciliation.
Sierra Leone went through one of the most brutal civil wars in recent history. Brothers turned on brother, women and girls were subjected to sexual violence and children were forced to kill. The social fabric of the country and the traditionally strong sense of community suffered. Our tournaments and workshops give people eager to move on a chance to start the process of reconciliation and of rebuilding a sense of unity.