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‘We forget who we are as a human being’

Copyrights: Peace and Sport

‘We forget who we are as a human being’

Former professional football player Christian Karembeu shared his views on sport and peacebuilding at the Peace and Sport Regional Forum in Rhodes.

Christian Karembeu enjoyed a glittering career as a professional footballer, playing in six countries in Europe. Among other honours, he won the UEFA Champions League twice with Real Madrid (1998, 2000) and the FIFA World Cup with France (1998).

Since retiring, he has been involved in a number of projects including becoming a Peace and Sport Champion for Peace. He was a panellist at this year’s Peace and Sport Regional Forum and sportanddev caught up with him afterwards.

The former defensive midfielder pointed out that his life had more humble beginnings. He grew up in New Caledonia, a French territory in the Pacific Ocean. Growing up, the territory suffered from political instability. There was conflict between France and an independence movement.

The tension and violence were at their peak when, aged 17, Karembeu moved to France. Karembeu had the chance to trial for French Ligue 1 side Nantes and, for his family, it offered a chance for him to escape the turbulent political atmosphere at home.

Karembeu’s background helps to explain his interest in the Peace and Sport movement, and he became a Champion for Peace after being invited to one of the earlier Peace and Sport Forums. A trip to Haiti after the earthquake in 2010 with founder and president of Peace and Sport, Joel Bouzou, reaffirmed his commitment.

“When I went to Haiti I said, ‘OK, this is impossible!’

Sport should be platform to bring everyone together for the best for our kids and the best future for our planet.

“Every politician promised to give Haiti something. But years later – still nothing.

“We went to give them something at least to breathe a little bit from their own trauma, from their own tragedy.

“We gave them tools and games, we played with them, we practiced with them. The reaction was incredible.”

Karembeu emphasises that, although football is the most popular sport in many places, all sports have their place in peacebuilding and he wants athletes for different sports to come together. However, football’s status does give it certain advantages.

We don’t need fields, we don’t need facilities. The social impact of football is very high.

“Why? Because all the footballers from their backgrounds… They come from poor areas. And we can see that from Pele to Neymar to Cristiano Ronaldo.

“The power of that is that the connection with the fans is very high.”

Karembeu believes that our peacebuilding aims would be better served if we rethink how we look at peace. When we talk about it, it’s normally because something bad has happened, he says. We make peace and then we create more conflict.

Maybe we even need to stop using the word ‘peace’ – a different word might help us better understand what’s happening and better look for solutions. And any redefinition should begin with looking at how we define peace for ourselves:

“We all know what peace is for us when we all die. That’s not positive. We should be at peace when we’re alive, not dead.”

With this year’s forum being focused on the Mediterranean region, much of the discussion was about sport and refugees. Karembeu ended the interview with a call for people to view those involved as individuals.

“We forget who we are as a human being. Today we think that its normal to see a refugee […] ‘He’s this, he’s that.’

He’s first a human being. Don’t think about where he’s from. When you look at evolution, we’re all the same.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2018 - 11:31