PROMOTING UNITY IN AFRICA THROUGH SPORTS
BY ANULIKA MENANYA
The 2013 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) is ongoing and South Africa, the venue of the event is currently booming with activities.
Four out of the 16 qualified national teams have progressed through the group stages to the semi-finals. These include Nigeria, Mali, Burkina Faso and Ghana
Spectators of different nationalities have come to cheer their various countries and favourite sides to victory at the 29th edition of the biennial event.
From January 19, nations across the continent filed out in oneness, united by their passion for the game, drums and the unique sound of the South African Vuvuzela to experience the continental showpiece.
The Africa Cup of Nations which was established in 1956 with Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia and South Africa as founding members has the overriding aim of fostering unity and friendship among nations on the continent.
Since inception, AFCON has brought together as many as 16 countries at a time and the number is expected to grow in the nearest future.
The symbol of the tournament has always been peace, unity and friendship, hence the naming in 1990 of one of the tournament's trophies, as the “Trophy for African Unity” That trophy was eventually retained by Cameroon in the year 2000, after winning it three times in a row.
The power of football to unite and inspire has been visible throughout the tournament in South Africa as the love for the game of football overwhelmed many of the issues that often challenge Africa's peace and stability.
Though nations like Nigeria and South Africa are actively involved in restoring peace on the continent through diplomatic and other means, sports events like the Nations Cup play a significant role in uniting Africans and creating a peaceful atmosphere throughout the continent.
Sports also plays a major role in peace building as countries like Mali and Sudan, which are currently in conflict, still managed to participate in both the qualification stages and up to the finals. While Sudan did not make it to South Africa, the Malians were not deterred by the crisis in their nation, as they have made it to the semi-final stage of the tournament.
It is also common knowledge that football has an extraordinary capacity to move people and unite countries as it teaches cooperation, teamwork and solidarity while striving for a common goal, both on and off the pitch.
Several countries like Nigeria, South Africa, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo have individually organized trans-border sports competitions intended to promote peace and unity among the youth and channel their abundant energies to progressive endeavours.
Considering the contributions of sports to continental peace, unity and friendship, individual countries and the African Union as a whole should encourage more sporting events.
Grants and other forms of support should be given to countries aspiring to host these sporting events, especially countries in conflict or civil strife to complement diplomatic efforts aimed at restoring peace.
This will help to foster the unity and peace that Africa has been promoting.
Broadcast on Wednesday February 6, 2013
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