19 February 2009 - Some 180 teenagers from 15 countries in North Africa, the Middle East and West Asia participated in a sports camp from 6 to 10 February at the Olympic Centre in Al Maadi, Cairo. The camp was organized by the Global Sport Fund (GSF), an initiative that offers young people opportunities to interact and develop their potential through sport.
Boys and girls took part in football and volleyball training clinics and tournaments where competitors scored points not only to win, but also for "fair play", teamwork and conduct on the pitch. Teams came from as far afield as Azerbaijan, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Lebanon, Morocco, Qatar, Somalia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
Wilfried Lemke, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Sport for Development and Peace, kicked off play. "I was very impressed to see all these young boys and girls from 15 different countries, and various religious and cultural backgrounds coming together for competitions and activities", Mr. Lemke declared. "This was made possible through the unique power of sport" he added. Also present was His Excellency Sheikh Saoud Abdulrahman Al-Thani, Secretary General, Qatar Olympic Committee, who scored a goal in a friendly football tournament (GSF vs. coaches). He encouraged participants to keep learning and set a lasting example to their peers back home. Coaches too learned how be role models to young people.
But this was a sports camp with a difference. Youngsters were learning important life skills in classroom discussions focusing on playing by the rules, respect for others, and awareness of the harm of drug use and behaviour that could lead to delinquency.
Participants lived together to foster lasting friendships despite linguistic, religious and cultural barriers. "Sport allows people to meet and play together, everywhere and at any time," said Mr. Lemke.
At a feedback session chaired by Mohamed Abdul-Aziz from UNODC's Regional Office for the Middle East and North Africa, based in Cairo, the youngsters and coaches gave a resounding endorsement of the GSF approach. "We are amazed by the learning skills we picked up through the medium of sport. We never imagined this was possible. We were truly given a sporting chance to develop our potential as human beings," said one participant.
Previous camps held in Lebanon and Qatar brought together participants from countries in conflict and those successes helped to develop the programme in Cairo. The programme ended with the appointment of GSF Youth Ambassadors and GSF Coach Ambassadors at a special gala award ceremony. The GSF will now help set up after-school sport activities and mini-camps in the particpants' home countries.
About the GSF:
The Global Sport Fund is an initiative of the UNODC and the Qatar Olympic Committee that seeks to offer youth between the ages of 11 and 17 years opportunities to regularly participate in amateur sport within their communities under the guidance of trained coaches.
The GSF aims to work with community-based organizations, parents, schools and coaches to help youngsters use their leisure time to develop their potential, while avoiding delinquency and drug use.
Visit the GSF website.