Blatter’s attempt to tackle “the mother of all conflicts”
A publicity stunt a week before the election? Possibly. However, I wish to express an angle that we are discussing a lot less, which ought to be more important to us. Why are we not all trying to make things better? Why is peace not on everyone’s agenda? Of course we must look critically at the information we are given, especially in a world where we have an overflow of information, but it may be just as important to look at the so-called bigger picture and consider the reality on the ground for individuals and communities suffering and seeking change. Put in perspective, shouldn’t this “stunt” be part of a bigger global priority, and shouldn’t we all be trying a bit harder?
During his busy week on a self-declared “peace mission”, the FIFA President brought attention to what is often referred to as, the mother of all conflicts in an area of the world with real hardship and a definite need for change.
Of course, 70 years since the end of World War II, 45 years since the June 1967 war, there have been many peace plans, negotiations attempts, aid programs, media and human rights reports, these sometimes taking steps forward but never managing to bring lasting change on the ground. Yet conflict creates pain and people’s violent realities push them to lose trust and hope. Peace is not something punctual; it is no finality that happens through one singular act. It is even less the mere absence of war, but rather a long process, much like sport which requires continued training.
However, in order to put an end to a cycle of violence that has been the reality for too many over the past half a century, we need to encourage moments where direct violence stops, where individuals do not fear for their life even if only momentarily. Sport has the capacity to create these brief moments and offer individuals affected by violence a space away from their defensive survival states and offer a taste for hope. Through a punctual event we cannot solve or hope to solve all the problems, but with an event bringing two teams in the same place, gradually we might be able to get them to speak and possibly even to play together. This small step, combined with others such as mediation and education, can contribute, even in a small way, to building a more peaceful reality.
One cannot blame Blatter for giving his all to this self-declared “peace mission”. On the contrary, setting aside his potentially questionable presidential agenda and whether he will remain in office after 29 May or not, he spent the last week of his mandate on something that matters and which impacts the lives of millions of people. Having said that, I also wish to emphasize that although we must act and do act – this consciousness shown by more and more political leaders can be seen through an increased participation in the Peace and Sport International Forums – we must do so responsibly through informed and honest action. Diplomacy should not be taken lightly; indeed it is more than a profession, it requires not only competencies but one must also be creative, informed, timely and neutral, with a capacity to seize opportunities while not being too greedy to push too far. And possibly most importantly, our approach must be led together with and for the people that are impacted by our action.