Opinion

Balla Dieye
Champion for Peace, Taekwondo African Champion

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25/04/2019 par Balla Dieye

“In Dakar, the entire stadium held up a white card”

I will never forget April 6, 2019. The emotion of this day will remain forever engrained in my memory. For the first time in my career, I decided to actively and concretely participate in the #WhiteCard operation in my own way. As a Champion for Peace, I have the responsibility to show the example and to promote the positive values of sport. It was important for me to mobilise my community on the occasion of the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace on April 6. I wanted to make the young athletes of my country – Senegal – aware of the cause of peace through sport. I hoped to send them a message. I wished to transmit the value of sport as a tool for solidarity and integration.

In previous years, I had often joined the Senegal Olympic Committee to celebrate this Day. There was an organized march and, as President of the Senegalese Taekwondo Federation and member of the Olympic Committee, I of course participated. But I wanted to go further. I could have made a speech, but I made the choice to be different. I prefer actions to speeches.

On Saturday April 6, 2019, I used the occasion of the Taekwondo Ambassador’s Cup at the Marius Ndiaye stadium in Dakar to hand out white cards to competitors and spectators at the entrance. The hall was full: 3,500 people, including athletes from all over Senegal. This stadium is legendary in Dakar. It was the first to be built in the city. All major Taekwondo champions have fought there at least once in their career. I won my first victories there.

The reception of the idea was incredible. It was a unique beautiful and moving time. We showed images of the world’s greatest sports champions wielding a white card. This made a very strong impact, especially on young people. Seeing Didier Drogba on the screen holding up a white card and calling for peace through sport, the Senegalese understood the importance of this day and its global dimension. Everyone joined in wholeheartedly. Seeing an entire stadium, 3,500 people, brandishing a white card for peace will remain an incredible memory and a tremendous accomplishment. The South Korean ambassador to Senegal was also present and he welcomed this moment. And there was a good press turnout to relay the message.

In Senegal, many people are unaware of the existence of the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, especially outside Dakar. This initiative introduced them to it. It also helped to raise awareness about the importance of sport to bring people together. Tensions sometimes run high in the south of the country. Sport can help to mitigate them.

I’ve always been very concerned about these issues. I think this is due to my sporting career and personal background. I grew up in Senegal, where I discovered taekwondo. Then my studies and my athletic career took me to live in France, the United States, Germany and South Korea. These successive sojourns opened my eyes to the world.

After the Rio Games in 2016, I decided to put an end to my sporting career. I wanted to pass on my experience and get involved in a different way. This is why I joined Peace and Sport’s club of Champions for Peace in September 2018. In December of the same year, I was elected President of the Senegalese Taekwondo Federation and I want to conciliate this new position with my commitment as a Champion for Peace. I think the 2022 Youth Olympic Games in Dakar will be a great opportunity. For the first time Africa will host the Games. We have to ensure that everybody in the country and in the continent will benefit from it, especially in terms of development and legacy.

The cause has always struck me as being very noble. Some of my friends were already part of the Champions for Peace club, including Marlene Harnois, Pascal Gentil and Ladji Doucoure. It seemed natural to me to become part of this initiative. I hope we will grow in number. We have a contribution to make. The day that sportspeople around the globe hold up a white card in unison to call for peace, their message will be heard all over Earth.

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