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Philippine Azkals named as National Peace Ambassadors

Football, a game of peace says PFF President Nonong Araneta

Named as National Peace Ambassadors, the Philippine Azkals presented an official team jersey with the I am for Peace logo to President Benigno Simeon Aquino III in Malacañan Palace Friday, September 14, Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Communications Director and Spokesperson Polly Michelle Cunanan said in an interview.

According to Cunanan, this sealed the partnership of the Philippine Football Federation (PFF), represented by the Philippine Azkals, with the government in its peace efforts through the "I Choose -- Peace" program, under the "I am for Peace" campaign of OPAPP.

This youth program between OPAPP and PFF aims to teach youths ages 8-12 years old in conflict-affected communities about peace and sportsmanship through football. The PFF and Azkals will hold a Peace Caravan that will consist of a series of football clinics as well as dedicate all their games to the peace cause.

PFF head Mariano “Nonong” Araneta said that “as we choose football, we also choose peace.” He added that even Fédération Internationale de Football Association or FIFA has initiatives for peace, recognizing the role of football to advance the cause due to its popularity in different nations, Araneta added.

Araneta also related the efforts in football to the peace process saying that “the path taken to win is not easy. The same way as the path to peace is not easy.” It’s a long process that will be reached “not by sheer luck, but due to hard work, discipline, training, and commitment,” he added.

“Our sport promotes the same values that we hope we share with all the Parties in the negotiating table that work (negotiate) for a peace agreement,” Araneta also said in relation to the peace negotiations.

“All of our games, we dedicate them for peace in the country. We are partners in achieving greater consciousness of the peace process,” he added.

According to Araneta, PFF will inaugurate the Philippine Football Peace Cup, a tournament-project funded by FIFA later this month. The Philippine national men’s football team is slated to play against teams from China, Taiwan, Macau, and Guam.

Early this September, the Azkals took part in the kick off of the observance of the 9th National Peace Consciousness Month with the theme “Ako. Ikaw. Tayo. Magkakaiba, Nagkakaisa sa Kapayapaan.” The Azkals showed their full support to peace by leading 1Goal for Peace with a football clinic that highlighted the celebration where about 100 kids from diverse backgrounds met the players and learned the basics of the sport. Also, 400 kids joined the Peace Fair that was part of the same program.

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process leads the annual celebration of Peace Month that aims to raise awareness on the peace process and urge different sectors, including government agencies, private and civil society organizations, to contribute in achieving a just and lasting peace for the country. The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) serves as the events' official sponsor for the month-long festivities this 2012.

In his closing remarks during the 1Goal for Peace event, Araneta recounted that in 2010, FIFA hosted “Football for Hope Festival,” where Israeli and Palestinian underprivileged children played together, learned about sports and peace as one team called Peace Team, with two coaches, one Israeli and one Arab.

“When children play, there are no religion and no wars, just peace and football,” Araneta said. He also added that in every FIFA World Cup, nations set aside their differences and unite to enjoy peace and football.

Araneta said that PFF aims to establish a football center in Bukidnon to harness football players in Mindanao. #

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