Can Football Help Colombia Heal the Deep, Old Wounds of the Region’s Longest Civil War?
FARC have now transformed into a political party and most of their former rebels, considered criminals up until the peace deal, are trying to reintegrate into civilian life. The deep wounds of the war are still fairly fresh and reconciliation will prove a long process. But there may be no better way to ease this transition than through Colombia’s unofficial religion: football.
Football is by far the most popular sport in the country. Colombia comes to a standstill when the men’s national team plays a game. Few people can be seen on the streets, as most find their way home or to a bar to catch the game. The sheer number of people watching these games has an impact on the Colombian economy. Just in Barranquilla, where Colombia plays its qualifiers, each match-day generates around $5m, according to the city’s chamber of commerce.
The sport enjoyed the same popularity in FARC camps deep in the Colombian jungle or hidden in inaccessible canyons. Though in some camps football was banned, because the rebels had to be alert in case of an ambush, many former fighters still played the sport and followed it eagerly. Pablo Medina Uribe, Al Jazeera