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Sport leaders reduce conflict: Don’t shoot bullets, but balls!

Keeping youths at risk out of trouble, that is no simple matter, whether they live in deprived neighbourhoods in Europe or in East African border regions. Seeds of Peace Africa (SOPA) has managed to use football to reduce ethnic tensions in a Kenyan border region. In the past 1.700 people were killed in cattle raids every year; today youths test their mettle on the pitch. Dutch community workers visited and acquired new ideas: sports coaches should not only know about sports, but also know how to analyze conflicts and how to build communities.


Keeping youths at risk out of trouble, that is no simple matter, whether they live in deprived neighbourhoods in Europe or in East African border regions. Seeds of Peace Africa (SOPA) has managed to use football to reduce ethnic tensions in a Kenyan border region. In the past 1.700 people were killed in cattle raids every year; today youths test their mettle on the pitch. Dutch community workers visited and acquired new ideas: sports coaches should not only know about sports, but also know how to analyze conflicts and how to build communities.

Security in deprived neighbourhood

Community sports coaches are often employed for their prowess in sports and didactic skills. In practice though, in countries like the Netherlands they take on responsibilities for social security in multi-cultural, deprived neighbourhoods. At the same time, municipal councils are often too little aware of the role sports can play in raising the quality of life.

Sports leaders learn how to reduce conflict

International Sports Alliance (formerly named NSA International) and the African SOPA together developed the Sports Leaders International programme during an E-Motive exchange. Dutch community sports coaches and sports teachers learned how their East African colleagues had developed a methodology for using sports in reducing conflicts in communities and between different groups. Refined conflict analyses by means of community mapping play an important role, as do games to get to know each other and to build respect. Youths are offered alternatives to negative behaviour: sports too are a way of impressing people. They build trust between each other and learn to start a dialogue.

Coaching on the job

After a pilot in Utrecht in September 2012, a selection of Dutch community workers and sports teachers from Breda, Tilburg, Amsterdam and Den Bosch visited Kenya in October 2013. In March 2014 four Sports for Peace and Development professionals from Kenya paid a return visit to the Netherlands, and shared their experiences on location. SOPA had also developed a manual with relevant tools for them, including trust-building games. It contributed to the creation of a new Sports Development Youth in Amsterdam. In other cities SOPA has helped to create new curricula, international internships, and job coaching opportunities for community sports leaders. Tilburg and Breda have both strengthened their teambuilding processes as a result of the E-motive exchange.

Planned co-operation in the future

The methodology will be further developed in 2014, including during a visit to the Netherlands of peace builders. A first version of the Peace and Sports manual will be completed, as well as a description of the intervention strategy. Reports with analyses of the situation in Kenya will be written, as will a report with recommendations for the Peace and Sports manual.

“I will any way start using a few of their games, the ones with the funny names like mosquito, locomotive and kiss. And of course water melon. I will certainly take onboard their way of looking at kids and sports.”

A sports coach of Breda Actief


How to build a dialogue

ISA/NSA method drawing target groups The Peace & Sports Programme has kicked off a dialogue between different groups of youths at risk, by means of sports activities, tournaments and competitions. Security in the restless border region between Kenya, Uganda and South Sudan has improved a lot as a result. Central to the approach is a refined context analysis with the aid of community mapping; the mapping of issues a community is dealing with. Equally important are community sports coaches with the right skills for defusing conflicts.

It is important that youths are offered alternatives to negative behaviour, such as drugs use, crime or violence. In what other ways can youths test their mettle, impress each other? Community sports coaches bring youths together in discussions on questions like: “What do you rather have? Money or good relations with friends and family?” These questions are asked around activities already fitting in with local culture, such as football.

Alongside the direct approach to young men, girls and women are involved too. The programme also reaches out to other groups, such as the elderly and government representatives. Together they work from a Value Based Sports perspective, which goes beyond the Fair Play methodology often used in the Netherlands. Fair Play is focused on the sport. Value Based Sports is about co-operation, dialogue and engagement, on and off the pitch.

To raise the trust in community sports coaches, they are recruited from among the youths at risk, and coached on the job to become Peace & Sports Facilitators. That is one of the ways of delinking risks and individuals. They learn all kinds of games that can bring young people together to get to know and trust each other better. These games have funny names like Locomotive and Water Melon.

“If you don’t have people around you, you are poor. Even when you have a lot of money.”

Kenyan peace and sports consultant, Ambrose Ongwen


Seeds of Peace Africa (SOPA)

SOPA International strives to empower children and young people, in communities, organizations and learning institutions, to support them in their endeavours to rebuild relationships, clarify personal and organizational visions, see reality more clearly, and develop, maintain and resolve conflicts in a non-violent manner. And thus to act with empathy, patience, integrity and courage in the process of disengaging from the violence that surrounds them, and to become agents of peace and social transformation.

SOPA does so by investing in peace education and imparting non-violent values and skills in children and young people. SOPA International helps to build families, communities, institutions and a world where justice, peace, harmony, and respect of God, humanity, life and personal dignity are the foundations of peace and sustainable development in the world. SOPA International uses sports, cultural activities and creative arts, life skills training and other forms of education to engage youths on issues that affect and impact on their lives.

SOPA’s mission is to facilitate the empowerment of children, young people and women through non-violent means, conflict transformation and peace education and training, research and analysis, counselling and networking, so they can participate in building positive peace, sustainable development and respect for human dignity in realizing a just and friendly world.


Oikos strives for a world where righteousness and sustainability are key. Oikos believes that everyone can contribute to the worldwide movement for a world free of poverty, with opportunities for everyone. Its main focus is on stimulating processes of change, and its main target group is Dutch society.

The aim of all its activities is to involve people in the vital task of achieving sustainable development for all. By showing what can be done, Oikos encourages politicians and other people to act, through campaigns, lobby, the organization of conferences and the production of information material, backed up by research into the causes of poverty. Although Oikos’s main focus is on Dutch society, it also works with international organizations on a number of projects around the globe. Oikos has launched several Dutch campaigns in support of international campaigns.

International Sports Alliance (ISA) (formerly named NSA International)

International Sports Alliance (formerly named NSA International) is an ambitious non-profit organization committed to the capacity building of Sports & Peace programmes in Africa, Asia and South America. In the Netherlands the focus is on increasing the support-base for the theme of sports and development co-operation. We believe in the power of sports to unite and encourage the growth of networks for development. Our partner organizations are every day engaged in successful sports and peace activities, to engender fraternization and equal opportunities for all.

International Sports Alliance and its local partners have been supporting development programmes for over ten years, in countries like Burkina Faso, Indonesia, Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, Surinam and South Africa. Sports are for us the means to activating people. That is what spurs us on!

Breda Actief

Breda Actief emphasizes that everybody in Breda should feel comfortable with him or herself. Contented people look after themselves, others and the city. Breda Actief is enthusiastic and positive, and works on the basis of what people want and can do.

Breda Actief stimulates and facilitates participation in sports and volunteer work in Breda, for and with the residents and organizations interested in sports and volunteer work. We do this by linking demand and supply, by advising on opportunities, by proactively responding to developments and opportunities, and by organizing courses and workshops, by training and coaching.

Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences

The University (HvA) inspires students to work on their future with creative solutions and sustainable innovations; to link today with tomorrow. With the motto Creating Tomorrow, the HvA anticipates the jobs of tomorrow and supplies the city with the professionals it needs. With its students and various partners in Amsterdam, it is working on solutions for the future. Whereby linking is the keyword. Linking learning and work, ideas and practice, talent and opportunities, students and society. Creating Tomorrow stands for enterprise and the active role in society HvA has in Amsterdam.

Exchanges have taken place with Sport Management & Enterprise.

King William I College

The King William I Colleges is a progressive Regional Education Centre (ROC in Dutch) in Den Bosch, for secondary level vocational education and post-secondary education. As UNESCO school the King William I College familiarizes its students with UNESCO’s thinking: peace, tolerance and sustainability.

Buurtsport Tilburg

Neighborhood Sport is an initiative of the municipality of Tilburg. The municipality's goals for 2011-2016 are laid out in a document entitled 'Samenspel' or Playing Together. This document explains how sports associations, sport organizations, businesses and the municipality together can raise the profile of sports in Tilburg to a higher level.

Contact Details

International Sports Alliance (ISA)

v/h NSA International

L. Hallers

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Seeds of Peace Africa


W. Imoite

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