Idriss Zackaria, the Director of YoungDiplomats Africa has been interviewed on the topic of sport and diplomacy. Idriss is one of the founder and prominent members of YoungDiplomats !
1- Do young Africans play sports?
Without doubt; football (soccer) is the most popular sport in the African continent. Indeed, football is the most popular sport in every single African country, football has historically been particularly popular amongst persons of African descent, it was introduced into Africa more than 100 years ago. Football is accessible in Africa because it can be played almost anywhere and by anyone in Africa, and by almost any healthy young person.
2- Do you think that sport can help in violent conflicts such as the one in CAR?
Perhaps there are no enough studies to explain that sport can play a huge role in peace building, however, from our experiences on the ground; I absolutely believe that sport and music both have the power to support important work in the field of conflict resolution and peace building in Central African Republic or anywhere around the globe. Sport has proven itself to be a useful tool in supporting conflict resolvers and peace builders. Because the task of building on past and current successes in the field is something that politicians, academics and practitioners in CAR are supposed to work on.
3- Do you have historical examples to show that sport can lead to peace?
Yes my friend! Sports have long been idealized as a way to heal wounds around the globe and rise above differences among cultures and nations. If we look back to the Olympics games for example and the World Cup games; perhaps we should ask: are we fools to think that sports can not only transcend politics but pave a path to peace?
Our real problem in Africa is that; nobody knows how to sell the sports-as-diplomacy like the Olympics do around the globe – which aims “to build a peaceful and better world. We should symbolize the coming together of the five continents.
World leaders have used sports as a means by which to make conciliatory international gestures. The Chinese government famously invited American ping-pong players to exhibition matches in China, Turkish and Armenians, Japanese, Chinese and let’s not forgets the Koreans. Also, let’s not forget Soccer’s World Cup, too, is often viewed as an event so transcendent of politics and prejudice. Sport seems to have worked for Côte d’Ivoire too, where the African star Didier Drogba spoke publicly before, during, and after the 2006 World Cup about the tournament’s ability to turn his country’s attention away from civil war – I think his message helped a lot and touched many hearts in the African continent.
4- As an expert on sport and politics what kind of sport events should be organized to ensure peace?
There is no something special about this; it depends on the geographic locations. Football (soccer) is probably the most popular sport in every African and European country, although rugby, basketball, tennis and cricket are also very popular in South Africa and many locations around the globe. However, I simply believe that we need to give additional opportunity for children to participate in an organized sports program.
5- If leaders on sport and politics from the entire world could hear you: what do you want to tell them?
The importance of sports has not been sufficiently appreciated by some international organizations in Africa and African governments for it to be integrated into their development plans. There is no doubt that sports could play a critical role in attaining peace, development and stability. Even though Sports stands for good governance, respect for the rule and a healthy lifestyle, but when we usually organize a sport program in Africa; we rarely get sponsorships or any kinds of supports.
It is ironic that the Africa continent has emerging economic powers that are able to perform very well on an international sporting stage but is lacking organizations and businesses to manufacture or produce sports equipment, modern football schools and sports construction materials. If sports are really going to save the world, let’s invest in sports that can make everybody love each other – that basketball and soccer can bring peace and conciliation to this world; that sports’ power to heal is stronger than hatred’s power to destroy.
Together; let’s please do more!