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Displaced South Sudanese Youth Trained as Soccer Referees and Coaches

July 4, 2016

Last week, 27 youth at a protection-of-civilians (POC) site in Juba, South Sudan were designated by representatives from the South Sudan Football Association (SSFA) as officially certified soccer coaches and referees. The group had been undergoing months of training as part of WPDI’s Peace Through Sports initiative at the POC site, one of a series of camps operated by the United Nations that provides shelter for thousands of the 1.7 million South Sudanese citizens who have been displaced by violence.

Now in it’s second year, the Peace Through Sports program was started with the goal of giving children and youth at the POC site a productive outlet for their energy and to use the teamwork, respect, and cooperation necessary for sports as a jumping-off point to start discussions about reconciliation and community building. Daily sports matches are followed by focus-group sessions that teach participants about life skills and peacebuilding.

Through a partnership with SSFA, several FIFA-certified trainers from that organization have been making regular visits to the POC site for almost a year, working with the youth to develop their skills as players, coaches, and referees. Last December, the first cohort of 35 youth became certified coaches or referees after completing over 120 hours of intensive training. The new group of 27 certified youth includes four young women.

Once certified, the youth have the opportunity to continue leadership roles within the Peace Through Sports program at the POC site, and more broadly, the certification is a credential that many of the youth hope to jumpstart careers or lifelong community-building positions within the game of soccer.

WPDI is grateful to SSFA and to its other partners—SCORE Sports, which provides uniforms, and the One World Play Project, which provides soccer balls—for their support in implementing the Peace Through Sports program, which is providing enrichment to over 2000 displaced children and youth in South Sudan.