Play31 uses the Football Festivals to unite and develop societies torn by war, conflict and disasters
20 to 30 times a year, Play31 gather people together in big football festivals. A festival includes three football matches over two days; one for the kids, one for the women and one for the men. The matches are typically played from the middle of the day until the early evening and after this everyone – both players and spectators – have dinner together. There are usually around 1,000 people at our festivals.
More than just football
In relation to the tournaments, Play31 hosts workshops about human rights, conflict resolution and trauma healing. Selected local leaders are trained as Peace Ambassadors and share their knowledge with their peers.
The first day of football ends with a big party—locally known as a disco—with dancing until the sun rises. The host village provides accommodation for the guests, and in this way the participants do not only play football, eat and dance together, but spend the night in the same village. These activities are often the first step towards reconciliation between people who have been separated since the war, more than ten years ago. We call it “football for reconciliation”.
Before each festival, a great deal of diplomatic work has taken place to get the leaders of the villages on to the idea – it requires a long process of sensitisation to ensure that the villages are in agreement with and feel ownership of our concept.
More than 60,000 people have been brought together
At the moment Play31 arranges football festivals in the Moyamba district in the Southern part of Sierra Leone – and we work to expand our work, not only within Sierra Leone’s borders, but also other places in Africa. We have previously had tournaments between rural villages in Guinea and Liberia in a so-called tri-nation tournament.
Play31 has brought together more than 60,000 people in Sierra Leone and educated hundreds of women, men, girls and boys in human rights and peaceful conflict resolution
Every section comes with three teams (men, women, and children).
Every section chooses a coach who is responsible for the team.
Starting in the morning, people from the visiting community will arrive (some of them will walk for several hours to arrive). The opening ceremony kicks off the event, and a chief and a Play31 representative will speak. Before the match there is a brief activity for the players of both teams to get to know each other.
The matches are played in the afternoon.
The meal takes place in the local community house—the court barry—which is typically located close to the football field. Play31 employs local villagers to cook the meal.
The dinner is followed by traditional ceremonies with song and dance as well as speeches and entertainment.
The evening—or rather, the night—ends with partying and dancing in the court barry; often until the sun comes up.
This video tell you a bit more about our Football Festivals