“Celebrating someone else’s victory is not a sign of defeat. It’s a sign of friendship”
At the Jail field ground at Inaruwa, Sunsari, spectators watch the football game in excitement.
There’s tension in the air, as the final football match between the blue and yellow team leads to a penalty shootout. The two sets of players look anxiously at each other. The blue team had already scored four out of five times.
Now it was the turn of the yellow team to take the final kick. The fate of the two team depended on one penalty shot!
Player number 1, Kuber Jung Thapa, a youth activist from the yellow team, positions himself. The referee blows the whistle, and Thapa sharply kicks the ball. The crowd erupts in euphoria, as Thapa scores the winning goal. “ …. And the winner of Hamro Team Maidanma (“Our team on the pitch”) is team yellow,” screams the commentator. Dagal Limbu, a traffic policeman and one of the players of team yellow, rushes to congratulate Thapa.
They hug and celebrate with their other teammates. Thapa and Limbu met three days ago at a football clinic. That was the start of their friendship.
“At first, I didn’t talk to Dagar, as he was from the police. I have always feared the police, and thought it wise to maintain distance. But when we were divided into groups both of us were placed in the yellow house,” shares Kuber. During the football clinic, both Kuber and Dagal became a part of various indoor and outdoor activities. They, along with their team members, were challenged with games on collaboration, leadership, communication, peace and conflict transformation and trust building. “I noticed that the youth who were part of the football clinic were hesitant to talk to us at first. But later, they slowly started to communicate with us. I made many friends, and one of them is Kuber,” shares the traffic policeman, Dagal, with a smile.
The football clinic—an evidence-based training session—encompasses thematic issues of peace-building, conflict transformation, gender sensitivity and collaboration through various indoor- participatory lectures and outdoor game sessions. The highlight of the training is the football match between the four teams comprising of both youth and police. The clinic—organized by Search for Common Ground (SFCG) Nepal with support from UKAID and European Union—aims to bridge differences between the police and the youth, and pave way for collaboration to uphold security and peace in the society.
Participants are coached by professional football players, and are groomed for the final football match. The football match provides a unique opportunity for youth and police to interact and impresses upon them the value of teamwork, fairness, discipline, inclusion, mutual respect, solidarity and peaceful coexistence.
Superintendent of Police, Posh Raj Pokharel, Sunsari, one of the guest speakers, acknowledged that the relation between the police and the youth had been stained because of the recent political unrest in the Tarai region. The football clinic aimed to rebuild their relations.
“The football clinic has helped address differences, and promote the human face of the police. The creative use of football promotes peace, tolerance and mutual understanding,” he said. He stressed that the youth were “police without the blue uniform”, and the police is eager to collaborate with the youth to ensure security and safety in the society. “The police are humans as well, and we have failed to recognize that.
They have similar stories of struggle. But peace and stability are our common missions,” shares Mamta Shah, a student. Participants stressed that public perception of the police has been often partial, and there’s a need for platforms to discuss problems, and identify solutions.
The participants from the police hinted that the Nepal Police is in the verge of transformation. They informed the youth about various programs such as ‘service with a smile’, ‘police and public hand in hand’, and ‘peace angles’ to address misconceptions, and strengthen police-public relation
The end of the football match was characterized by smiles, friendship and trust. The youth and police clicked selfies, exchanged phone numbers and whispered notes of farewell with a gentle reminder that they would meet again.
The victorious yellow team reached out to the other teams, and started chanting slogans together, “Hamro Team, Ramro Team, Sangai Cha Hamro Jeet, (“Our team, the best team, together we all win”). Assistant Inspector of Police, Tika Devi Shrestha, from the blue team says that she doesn’t feel bad about her team’s loss, as the three-day football clinic has taught her a valuable lesson. “To celebrate someone else’s victory is not a sign of defeat. It’s a sign of peace and friendship,” she said.