A team of Army soldiers, armed, not with guns, but with footballs, are all set to reach out for peace to the youth of Negros island, through sports in the project called “Soccer for Peace”.
Maj. Gen. Jose Mabanta, 3rd Infantry Division commander, said the soldiers, who are also football players, will momentarily lay down their guns, to visit conflict-affected areas of Negros island.
Mabanta said this is part of their campaign to bring peace to conflict-affected communities of Negros and Panay islands.
"We hope to bring out the best from the youth through discipline, teamwork and sportsmanship in sports in these places where some are driven to join armed groups", he added.
Mabanta said he hopes the endeavor will instill among the youth the realization that that there are opportunities despite the social challenges in their communities.
The 24-man 3ID soccer team, from different battalions and brigades, was trained by soccer players from the Tactical Operations Group of the 2nd Air Division of the Philippine Air Force and retired former members of Philippine Army soccer team from Barotac Nuevo, Iloilo.
Wearing colorful jerseys, soccer shoes, olive drab Army athletic shorts and their smile instead of their “tiger" look on camouflage printed Battle Dress Attire uniforms, the 24 football players of the 3rd Infantry Division will gather Saturday at the football grounds of the Central Philippine University in Iloilo City, to kick-off their unusual method of spreading peace.
The Iloilo football events also form part of the 3ID celebration of the nationwide Peace Consciousness Month.
Maj. Enrico Gil Ileto, 3ID spokesman, said each of the 24-man team members will return to their units, to organize and train a team from selected youth within, in coordination with existing football teams, and local sports coordinator.
After each battalion has organized and trained its players, a tournament will be held initially by each brigade then for the winners and later the headquarters of the 3ID to determine the overall champion.
Ileto said the 3ID hopes to gather scholarships from various partner organizations for the youth players who will later be selected.* GPB
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