Colombia is one of the 32 nations to be playing in this year’s World Cup. But it’s not the men’s team that impressed Communications Intern, Ben Harris, when he visited Colombia last October.
A dangerous game
“The pitch was basically a swamp” recalls Ben. “We were in the middle of nowhere in the Colombian jungle.”
As the all-girls team warmed up, waiting for the opposing team to arrive along the river, the boys filled in the potholes.
However it wasn’t just the potholes which were a threat to the team. The team lives in an area ravaged by the ongoing conflict. In the past 20 years more than 70,000 civilians across Colombia have been killed or have disappeared.
“We were told that football matches are always held at midday, despite the heat, because to travel by night would be too risky” says Ben.
Pockets of peace
Amidst this conflict-affected area of the Colombian jungle, there are little pockets of peace. Places where civilians, after years of being chased out of their homes, have been able to put down roots.
These come in the form of humanitarian zones – areas where weapons are forbidden and civilians are protected by international law.
Our partner, the Inter-Church Commission for Justice and Peace (CIJP), has set up some of these humanitarian zones. For the communities who live in them, the zones have allowed them to begin a new life in safety.
As part of this new life, the women of the humanitarian zones have created a very competitive football league.
Bringing people together
“Sport has a way of bringing people together” says Ben.
Although they are competing, the women’s football league allows the people of these humanitarian zones to build friendships, to share experiences and to support each other. The atmosphere of joy and the way the communities come together to cheer is inspiring.
“The Colombian national team may have qualified for the World Cup for the first time in sixteen years, but it is this women’s league with their spirit and resilience in the face of Colombia’s difficulties, that represents Colombia to me.”