Thursday, June 07, 2007

Soccer unites Côte d'Ivoire

I think it was last year that someone nominated the sport of soccer for the Nobel Peace Prize. When you look at all the soccer fan violence that occurs, particularly in Europe and Latin America, such a nomination seemed ludicrous me, as much as I love the sport. But much like religion, to which the sport is often compared, soccer can just as easily be exploited for good as for evil.

Last weekend's African Nations Cup qualifier in Côte d'Ivoire between the home country and Madagascar was played in Bouaké, 'capital' of the formerly rebel-controlled north.

The country was split in half for over four years, but progress seems to be moving forward, however slowly, ever since former rebel leader Guillaume Soro was named prime minister in a national unity government. Soro attended Sunday's match.

The match was held in Bouaké at the request of the national team's star player Didier Drogba. "The objective is reconciliation. We had to put on a show and we succeeded. Ivory Coast is reunited through football," the reigning African player of the year said.

Let's hope.

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