International Fellow, Ryan Hage, and PPI – Cyprus Coordinator, Stephanie Nicolas, went to the USA-Ukraine soccer match in Larnaca last Wednesday and enjoyed more than just the game.
After finding out that the U.S. Men’s National Team was coming to Cyprus for a friendly game against the Ukraine, I was extremely excited to see my home country play in real life! I did not think I would get the opportunity to see any team from the United States come to Cyprus in my time being here. So I quickly grabbed Stephanie Nicolas, PPI – Cyprus Coordinator, and we went off to the game. The game was moved to Cyprus because of the current crisis in Ukraine. Many thought the game would be cancelled because of the move to Cyprus, but in the end the game was played as scheduled.
At first, I did not think anything of this but it showed me that sport has the power to keep things going in the midst of a crisis or even a war. Many of the team members from Ukraine were probably worried about family or friends back home but decided to play.
In the past, sport has always provided a way to improve international relations or show that a country will still function and move on, no matter what. I remember when I was a young child and 9/11 happened in New York City. It devastated many families and the country as a whole. The very next week, it was decided to have the Yankees game as scheduled to show that nothing will disrupt the way we live.
At PeacePlayers we attempt to take it a step further by using sport as a catalyst to bridge divides, create peace and bring areas of conflict together. Aside from competing with those around the globe, it is essential to interact with the various cultures around you to both learn from and appreciate people from around the world. PeacePlayers works with over 4,000 youth athletes each year to both teach them the fundamentals of basketball and the life skills necessary to improve their communities and create a more peaceful world. It may appear to ‘just be a game’ but in reality it is an invaluable tool helping to develop people every single day.