This past Saturday PPI-CY celebrated the completion of a great year by organizing its End-of-the-Year Basketball Tournament. The tournament hosted over 140 Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot children from PPI-CY teams across Cyprus. Youth ages 11 to 16 gathered at Poliproponitirio Gymnasium in Nicosia to play basketball in an inclusive and fun-filled environment to celebrate the completion of another year of bicommunal activity and sport interaction. Boys and girls from 10 different cities and villages across Cyprus (Kalosi, Larnaca, Kiti, Dali, Engomi, Nicosia, Kyrenia, Lapithos/Lapta, Lysi/Akdogan and Trikomo/Iskele) came together to play 3-on-3 basketball in mixed teams, listen to music, enjoy food and special activities together.
Tournaments are a great way to promote the sport of basketball and bring out a message that cooperation and collaboration through sport is possible by encouraging Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot youth to interact with each other. Saturday’s tournament was one of the biggest and best PPI-CY has ever had, and included a mixture of ages and experience levels. For some of the kids, this was their fifth PeacePlayers tournament they have attended, for others it was their first. This created an amazing environment where experienced children could lead by example, helping to break down social divides and create a comfortable playing atmosphere for the newer children.
But the morning did not go without incident. While the Turkish-Cypriot children were attempting to cross the buffer zone to get to the gym, border police stopped them and made each of the 75 children go through the checkpoint one by one, requiring not just their IDs, but the IDs of both parents as well. While this information is supposed to be stored in a computer, for some reason that day it was lost, and the police even threatened to hold back several children who had crossed many times before. But the PPI-CY coaches and children showed great patience, working with the police, getting each parent on the phone to relay the correct info, and even though it took nearly 1.5 hours, every child was able to cross. When the Turkish-Cypriot children finally arrived at the gym, the Greek-Cypriot children cheered and welcomed them, and as the basketballs began flying the morning hassle was quickly forgotten.
While the morning experience is not ideal, the result turned out to be alright thanks to the leadership and experience of the PPI-CY coaches who made sure no child was left behind. This experience also shows the challenges PPI-CY faces every year in order to bring the two sides together, but it is a challenge worth taking. With PPI-CY’s ultimate goal to create real long lasting friendships between the children of the two ethnically divided communities, this tournament was a great step in the right direction. The next opportunity for these kids to meet will be the PPI-CY 6-day overnight summer camp in July. It is our hope that the camp will help take the hundreds of new relationships formed through twinnings and tournaments this year and solidify them.
To see all the photos from this tournament and more, check out the PPI-CY Facebook Group here.