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WPDI’s Under-14 Football Team from the Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement Makes it into a National Tournament

December 2018 – This month, a football team of youths under 14 years of age trained by WPDI at the Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement competed in the 5th Fields of Dreams Hope Cup football tournament in Wakiso Township’s Kyabaggu Stadium. Going this far into a tournament of national scope created a wave of energy and elation in the youth but also in their community at large. The five-day tournament – held annually – brought together 50 teams from all parts of Uganda to compete in a variety of categories under the theme of “hope is peace”. WPDI’s team represented midwestern Uganda’s Bunyoro Kitara region, more specifically the Kiryandongo District, a true honor and joyful achievement for teenagers stemming from some of the most vulnerable communities. 

WPDI’s team played very well in the tournament - besting themselves as they did throughout the championship. Their first match paired our youths against ABC Soccer Academy FC from the Masaka District – last year’s defending champion. Despite that, the outcome of the match was a draw at 0-0. WPDI’s team also drew 0-0 in their second match against Golden Stars FC from the Wakiso District. That allowed the team to play against Fields of Dreams FC from the Kampala District in the category’s final match. While the team lost 0-1, they still finished in second place within the “Under 14” category – an impressive feat indeed.

The youths gained much from their time in Kampala. It served as an excellent educational experience: they were able to mix with other young people from across Uganda and build new relationships, learn that discipline and hard work could lead to successes, and set new personal goals for themselves. Further, they were able to engage with all of this within an environment that stressed peace. As Choul Anyoul, the goalkeeper on WPDI’s team, explained, “my experience at this tournament has enriched my personal perception of my role in peace promotion in sports. I will absolutely be a strong agent of promoting peace as a basic need in my community”.

This experience reflects the aims of WPDI’s Peace Through Sports program at the Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement in partnership with the Western Union Foundation. In just a few years, it has brought thousands of at-risk youths there together in an accessible environment – sports – that teaches the values of tolerance, rules-based order, and fair play. In this regard, football has an immensely deep appeal to the youths at the settlement and serves as a great way for them to learn to respect their opponents, engage in peaceful competition, and have fun while doing so. It even serves as a way for youths to become inspired about their futures. As James Kola, a 13-year-old South Sudanese striker on the WPDI team said, “my participation at the Hope Cup tournament helped me learn to believe in myself and that I can be one of the world’s greatest players. I will use all available resources to become an immeasurable player. I can’t tell you how happy I am because I love my game, my friends, coaches, and my parents. I have a dream that, one day, the world will know of me like Messi and Ronaldo and I will become as great as them”.