Goal for Peace: Football’s Role in Healing Nigeria and the Global Community

By Ibrahim Kegbegbe

In the bustling streets of a diverse neighborhood, where languages, cultures, and beliefs intertwined, there was a small soccer pitch where children from all backgrounds came together to play the game they loved, offering a glimpse of the unity and harmony that football can inspire.

Football often called the beautiful game, has a unique ability to unite people from diverse backgrounds, transcending boundaries of language, culture, and religion.

The world witnessed this during the last World Cup hosted by Qatar, an Arabic and predominantly Muslim country. Despite linguistic and cultural differences among fans, the resounding cheer of “goal” echoed around the globe. This universal language of football exemplifies how humanity can come together in harmony.

In contrast, the ongoing conflicts in various parts of the world, including Ukraine, Israel, and Nigeria, raise questions about why we cannot apply the same principles of unity and coexistence that we celebrate in sports to broader aspects of our lives.

The World Cup as a Symbol of Unity, the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar marked a historic milestone as it was the first World Cup hosted in the Arab world and the second in Asia. Despite the participating countries’ diverse languages, cultures, and religions, the moment a player scored a goal, a collective roar of “goal” reverberated worldwide. This shared enthusiasm showcased how a common passion can bridge gaps, demonstrating that unity is not only possible but also deeply ingrained in the human spirit.

To better understand the conflicts plaguing our world today, let’s take a closer look at two prominent examples: the Ukraine-Russia conflict and the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Contrary to popular belief, these conflicts are primarily about territorial disputes rather than religious differences. Ukraine and Russia are engaged in a struggle for land, while the Israeli-Palestinian conflict centers on the allocation of territory. Israel is known for Christianity and Palestine is known for Islam but their conflict is always based on land or territory acquisition, not religion.

Both Israel and Palestine possess political and economic stability within their respective territories. The ongoing conflict between them primarily revolves around land acquisition. This dispute has resulted in prolonged suffering for both sides, emphasizing the importance of peaceful resolution and coexistence.

In contrast to the unity displayed during football matches, some regions, including Nigeria, have witnessed religious conflicts. Nigeria’s diversity, with its numerous ethnic groups and religions, has at times been a source of tension. However, just as the world unites in celebration during football events, Nigeria can learn from this example to build a harmonious nation. Embracing diversity and fostering unity should be the path toward a prosperous and peaceful future.

In recent times in Nigeria, there has been a noticeable trend of religious practitioners resorting to legal action against members of other faiths, often citing disputes over religious authority. The cases of political irregularities in Nigeria courts of Law have always been mere scenes than the religious cases through which Nigerians are ready to kill one another because of their difference in faith. What a pity!

This situation is certainly disheartening. However, developed nations such as the United States, China, Germany, and Great Britain are actively competing in the domains of technology and medical advancement. Sadly, Africa, particularly Nigeria, still faces challenges in catching up technologically. This presents a regrettable situation.

The universal language of football demonstrates that when people come together for a common purpose, they can set aside their differences and unite in celebration. The cheers of “goal” heard across the globe during football matches should serve as a reminder of our shared humanity and our capacity to overcome divisions.

It is my hope that the lessons learned from the world of sports can inspire nations to seek peaceful resolutions to conflicts and embrace diversity as a source of strength rather than division. Ultimately, the spirit of unity and love that football instills in its spectators can guide us toward a brighter, more harmonious future.

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