For nearly 10 years, the Christian and Muslim communities of the Central African Republic clashed with weapons; today, to make peace, they have chosen football. The authorities of the Ndélé city organized last Saturday, September 23, a football match at the municipal stadium to bring communities together and support living together. Reporting !
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From our correspondent in the Central African Republic,
It’s 12 p.m. in the streets of Ndélé. The local football festival turns into a fraternal reunion between communities too often separated by conflicts.
After the military-political crisis of 2013, the daily life of residents was particularly tense and difficult: communities clashed with weapons, but today the practice of football plays a significant part in the reconciliation process.
“We want peace in our city,” says Jean-Marc, a resident of Ndélé. Watch how people mobilize to get to the stadium. We have accepted the disarmament of hearts and weapons, so we must have fun with football. »
“We made several attempts at reconciliation”
Business places lower their curtains, neighborhoods are emptied of their populations and even the surrounding villages are mobilizing. On site, there are comings and goings of motorcycle taxis transporting supporters to the Ndélé municipal stadium.
Despite the hassle and transport difficulties, some football lovers travel dozens of km on foot to get to the stadium. Bachirou is one of them. “We made several attempts at reconciliation, but it didn’t work. Football must bring peace to our city. I have faith that thanks to this game, we will have sustainable living together.”
In Ndélé, traditional authorities are inspired by the Nigerian model. They emphasize how the Nigerian selection was able to unify a divided country by winning the CAN in 1980. Souleymane Diallo is a traditional chief. “ Security and peace are matters of will. If some African countries have found peace through sport, I wonder why not us. We suffered a lot. It is time to say no to looting, no to killings and no to sexual violence against our women and girls.”
At 3 p.m., the Ndele municipal stadium is packed. The Ace Cobra of Ndélé faces the Elephants of Ndélé in a friendly match. In both formations, there is the presence of Christians and Muslims. We share chewing gum, water and tea.
It’s celebration, it’s joy. The match begins under the amazed eyes of Merline. “Our suffering was indescribable, she confides. But I have hope that something good will emerge from a dramatic situation. If football can make us live together, I will be eternally grateful.”
“That’s the magic of football”
During the 90 minutes, the ball flies and bounces. The players follow him, chase him and push him with their feet. On the substitutes’ bench, Johnny, an AS Cobra player, is very moved. “Football is very important in a country. Look at how football is reconciling us. We forget our problems. That’s the magic of football.”
Alerted, the Elephants goalkeeper lunges at the ball, catches it and sends it back to his center forward. Number 9 opens his right foot and touches the posts of the Ace Cobra.
Even if the two teams separated with a score of 0-0, football united these people in a moment of conviviality. “Football is very important for young people, cowardly Emaus, trainer of the Ndélé elephants. Politicians are used to manipulating young people to take up arms and destroy their countries. Now, thanks to football, we say no to manipulation.”
A sea of supporters in multi-colored jerseys parade through the city to celebrate peace between Christians and Muslims.