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Football for Humanity: the life and times of Christopher Thomas

Copyrights: FFH

Football for Humanity: the life and times of Christopher Thomas

The journey that led to Chris Thomas founding the non-profit organisation Football for Humanity to use football as a tool for peace and youth development.

In 1983, Paul McCartney—famous English singer-songwriter and member of the Beatles, acknowledged as the most influential rock band of the 20th century—shot a video for his song, “Pipes of Peace.”

The video depicted the famous 1914 Christmas truce during the First World War, when German and British soldiers crossed trenches and ventured into no man’s land to exchange holiday greetings and play a bit of football.

It is this powerful memory of universal brotherhood in a period of extreme conflict that moves another Englishman to cross time zones, venture across cultures, and like the soldiers of that historic Christmas Day, offer football as an act of peace.

36-year-old Christopher Thomas, founder of Football for Humanity (FFH) said: “The two fiercest fighting forces in the world were dug in the trenches. And all of a sudden there were Christmas carols being sung. They popped their heads up, came out, and walked across the trenches. Instead of killing each other in a violent war, they shook hands and got a football out. They played football and this is what brought these nations together. They became friends. Through the power of this sport, we can do the same all over the Philippines. No matter what the background is.”

Violent streets

As a child of seven, Thomas already discovered how football could bring peace in a neighbourhood. In Merseyside - a county in North West England that includes the boroughs or districts of St. Helens, where he grew up, and Liverpool, the birthplace of the Beatles - violence was commonplace in the streets.

The area surrounding St. Helens was a little bit more violent. There was gun crime and knife crime, with a lot of gangs. If rival gangs were facing each other on the street, you couldn’t cross for fear of getting killed or stabbed or shot, Thomas said. “We’d stay in the streets to play football. But the police would have a problem with us because the neighbours would complain about the ball, that it might damage property. So they would tell us to go to the park. But if we go to the park, we might be attacked by gangs,” he said. Thomas narrated that they eventually found places where they felt safe; where they could play because they just wanted to be friends.

One time, a classmate of his tried to bully him. He fought back and broke his classmate’s nose. But as Thomas matured and started attending secondary school, he came to the realisation that fighting violence with violence wasn’t the way. “I was small so I was a bit of an easy target. I had to defend myself in many different ways. And it got to the point when people began to think they don’t want to pick a fight with me anymore.

Thomas said, however, that it was better to be a diplomat of sorts; to be more peaceful in the approach and to dissolve a situation before it escalates. “From a young age, I was able to prefer that method. Rather than going at it, you know, throwing my fist and beating people.

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Article type

News

Author

Psyche Roxas-Mendoza

Published

Saturday, August 10, 2019 - 17:44