As the Malaysian men’s national football team assistant coach Richard Nelson Scully addressed the participants of the first ever Sports for Peace initiative organised by Global Peace Festival (GPF) – Malaysia, the passion in his voice was clear for all to hear, and the love in his eyes for the beautiful game was even clearer for all to see. “I applaud you gentlemen, you have taken a great step as the leaders of tomorrow to unite and rise above your differences and come together through your shared love and appreciation of sport,” said Coach Scully.
On April 6th 2014, The United Nations launched its first annual International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, a day that would personify the power of sport as a bridge that transcends the ethnic, national, racial, and religious boundaries that divide people from all walks of life. All across the globe, hundreds of initiatives ranging from national marathons to community sports gatherings we organised to participate in the special day. Sports for Peace, held on April 12th 2014 at the International Youth Centre in Cheras, was GPF – Malaysia’s contribution to this effort, and was the only event in Malaysia to be held in light of the unprecedented UN initiative.
Guest of honour, Coach Richard Nelson Scully was truly inspired by the project, and spoke candidly about his love for football and its undeniable power to bring communities together and overcome any obstacles that life my throw at an individual. “I have seen children, lost children, without the hope of a future find their way to happiness through football,” said the understandably energised coach, who also highlighted the power of football as a transboundary entity.
“In 2010, we saw the proud people of South Africa, a country of many ethnic divisions, stand proudly as one and blow their Vuvuzelas as a symbol of pride, joy, and unity. We saw different cultures meshing into one, unified by the power of football. I believe in 2014 in Brazil, we shall see that again. And I believe here, at the first ever Sports for Peace futsal tournament, we shall see that same spirit shine.”
The highlight of the event was a thoroughly entertaining friendly futsal tournament. It brought together an array of exciting young talents from different parts of the country who were eager to take part in the event and contribute to the just cause. “When I heard about the tournament, I wanted desperately to take part. I love football and I have no doubt that it is a weapon for change and a weapon for peace,” said Luqman Hakim bin Hashim, captain of Team SLR, one of the 9 teams represented at the tournament.
At the onset, the teams were driven by the pursuit of victory. However, following Coach Scully’s inspirational speech, and the explanation of the purpose of the day’s events, the teams bonded and formed new friendships both on and off the futsal court. Through their laughter, sharing of stories and the realisation of their mutual adoration for the game of football as an escape from the segregated worlds they come from, sport gained another victory and recruited more champions into the battle against bordered societies and towards a more united family. It was a great day for sport, and an even greater day for peace and unity.
The spectacle also featured a gallery of iconic athletes where galvanising quotes and stories about how sport has played a role in the shaping of their character as an individual, and how it has contributed to the attainment of inner peace and acceptance of all people no matter their differences were on full display. Among them was Novak Djokovic, currently ranked as the second best player in the world. Djokovic was one of the pioneers for this special day, and spoke of his wish to see sport used as a tool to cultivate peace in communities. “…the more we instil respect for these ideals (peace, unity, fair play and respect) in ourselves, the better the world will be that we leave to our successors,” he said. With over 200 recognised events having taken place globally including Malaysia’s only event Sports for Peace by Global Peace Festival – Malaysia, the march towards unity is continually gaining momentum through great leaps and inspiring stories of victory.