Mapourdit World Cup

Two weekends ago I hopped in a truck and drove down bumpy, water-filled roads until reaching Mapourdit. I was going to open the Mapourdit World Cup with a seminar on Reconciliation. How do soccer/football and reconciliation go together? Read on to find out. Below is an article written by Fr. Daniele, an Italian priest who has been the visionary for this event. The article includes some good Sudanese background and interesting cultural insights.

The World Cup in South Sudan

Football World Cup in Africa in Search for Justice, Peace, and Reconciliation.
How a Global Event May Become “Glocal”!
By Daniele Moschetti

No, no! It is not a mistake! It is really South Sudan and not South Africa! It started as a joke and with a few witty remarks: Later, amat, amat (little by little) it is becoming a reality! Just a few of our youngsters and some of the pastors from Mapourdit and from the Rumbek diocese really believed in it: to bring the first African Football World Cup here to our home in South Sudan. But how?


Mapourdit is a village with just a few thousand people, located in the middle of a tropical forest about 80 km from Rumbek, the capital of Lake State.

Right now, it is the long rainy season from May to September. When it rains there are new waterfalls formed during the many storms. A lot of water – and when the hot sun comes back the weather is humid and unbearable. So, little by little, the many puddles transform into small lakes that will not dry up until the end of September. There is a risk that from small lakes they become real lakes or almost oceans! The track that brings us to the main dirt road is almost 30 km long and during this season is almost impassable. As a result we remain isolated because so few vehicles come to Mapourdit, especially during this season. Even for those of us that live here moving around becomes more difficult because every trip is a new adventure and often we sink in the mud with our cars or other vehicles. Wading through these small lakes and puddles on the track in the forest our car resembles a boat.

The rainy season

This season is for the local people the time to sow peanuts, maize, durra (a kind of wheat), and much more. It makes you feel good to see women, men, young people and children going to the fields starting early in the morning to cultivate together, with rudimentary tools and pairs of oxen.

In any case a lot of determination and goodwill. Even the Dinkas, traditionally pastoralists, are learning to cultivate the land in order to reach a minimum subsistence level, in addition letting their cows graze in this period when the pastures are green and abundant.

The smiles of the children

Besides the cows, children are the happiest during this time. When I travel around by car I enjoy observing their happiness, their laughing, shouting and smiles when they plunge and swim into the puddles that look like swimming pools if not really small lakes; a bucolic scene with a lot of cows, goats, sheep that drink in the same place.

January 2011: Secession Referendum

South Sudan is preparing for the Secession Referendum in January 2011. The citizens of the South will be called to the polls in order to decide whether to remain united to North Sudan or to become independent, a new nation.  The elections of April 2010 left many doubts, but all in all they went as all the people expected. Both Omar el Bashir and Salva Kiir have been re-elected in North and South Sudan respectively. There are many new state governors and members of the various parliaments that have now to face a historical moment as the 2011 referendum approaches. There are already tensions and different opinions not only in Sudan but also among the politicians and governments of the neighbouring countries. Many are not in favour of independence, for various reasons, and just a few, to tell the truth, favour independence and freedom of the people from South to decide upon their future.

Mapourdit World Cup! Justice and Peace, and Reconciliation must prevail!

It is in this situation that we thought to organize a series of events tied up with the Football World Cup. The main objective has been to involve the entire community of Mapourdit and the surrounding district in the events, to expose them to this African celebration that is going to have a worldwide stage. For a whole month the lights will be not only on South Africa but on the whole continent.

It is really a unique occasion!

We even gave a title to our World Cup:

“Mapourdit World Cup! Justice, Peace and Reconciliation must prevail!”

We want to focus on the important values of peace, justice, reconciliation and solidarity as the main pillars of a common way of living that enriches the various nations and tribes. This initiative and many more that we will start in the coming months, will create an environment and atmosphere of dialogue, sharing and reflection in order to better understand this important historical step that these people are about to accomplish towards independence. Either we unite together or all together will succumb to another war!

In 2005 Sudan came out from twenty-two years of war and the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed in Nairobi foresaw a set of initiatives that would bring long-lasting peace and solve endemic problems between North and South. A land that is rich with oil and many other resources already left 2 million dead and many more millions of people displaced within the country and abroad. Among the initiatives included in the CPA were the elections, that took place with a certain delay in April 2010, and the Secession Referendum in January 2011.

Before the April elections some of the Dinka clans of our area—Apak, Jang , Atuot and others in other area of South Sudan—clashed several times, leaving on the ground several thousand dead, many young people among them. Statistics show that there were more than 2000 dead in 2009. These are not good signs for a country that wants to become independent and mostly counts on the young for its future. Add to this the fact that the South’s President, Salva Kiir Mayardit, re-elected in the recent polls, during his speech when he was sworn in, said that 22,838 weapons of various types have been confiscated from the civilian population, most of them from youngsters. Therefore there is not only tension with North Sudan, but also growing tension in the South among the various ethnic groups.

Peace Education in full swing!

At the end it is necessary to educate people about peace, justice, reconciliation and reciprocal respect. I’ve always considered sport a wonderful vehicle to teach about life, acceptance and the healthy competition that helps people not only to improve themselves but also to respect each other. We win together as a team, but also sacrifice, and to learn from others. It is a vehicle for the formation of character of the young and to put personal efforts to the service of the community and of the common good.

In fact we shall start the programme with a one day workshop on the values of peace and of the reconciliation in our life and experiences, to which everybody is invited. We organized a football tournament with eight teams, where the names have been chosen from among the nations participating in the World Cup. In reality it was not possible to do otherwise. Many of the participants have chosen the names of African Nations: South Africa, Cameroon, Ghana, and Ivory Coast, but also Portugal and England, Germany and Italy. No one chose Brazil or a South American Nation! Perhaps it is a world still too far from them, which they do not know. To tell the truth, even here the English football dominates, by means of radio broadcasts on Saturday and Sundays.

There will be also two teams made up of women and young girls. These will be directly admitted to the final match on July 11th. This is an extraordinary sign in this cultural situation, where women are still segregated to domestic labour, taking care of their children or tending the fields when it is the sowing season. We wanted to reaffirm that the role of women and their sensibility are very important for the construction of peace and their value at the dawn of the new future nation. Ah, I forgot to tell you the overwhelming majority of the people here are in favour of independence.

Not only football. We went further…..

In fact there will be also the World Cup of Knowledge. Both in the primary school with 1500 students, and in the secondary school with more than 200 students we organized a competition where the winners will be those that demonstrate the best knowledge about the nations participating to the South African World Cup as chosen by themselves. A captain and a team of 4 will face the other 32 nations participating in the World Cup Finals with a system of question-and-answer elimination rounds. Each team will choose a nation and will study its history, geography, economy, traditions and much more. Recreation and amusement, study and fun will be assured! Also 12 teachers for each team in representation of their respective schools, primary and secondary, will confront themselves on the subject of two African Nations: South Africa and Nigeria! Imagine their students…..

There will be about thirty meetings in the schools, class by class at the primary, secondary and also at the nursing school of our Hospital of the Mission. We have students aged 25 to 30 years in the secondary and even primary classes. The disaster of the war and the delays in the education created enormous differences which are very difficult to eliminate. An education to Peace, Justice and Reconciliation at 360° which involves not only the students, but the whole population of the villages. The many children will be involved with games to express the values of Peace and Non-violence, in line with the ideas that we want to communicate to the entire community.

And, dulcis in fundo….

The whole programme will start on June 5th, anticipating the World cup, with the first phase of the Mapourdit Football World Cup followed by all the other events. This is just the prelude to watch together the football matches directly from South Africa.

In fact, with the collaboration of UNICEF, the Rumbek Diocese succeeded to obtain the sponsorship to supply two Parishes with the equipment necessary to show the people this worldly event: Parabolic-dish antennas, decoders, subscription to DSTV, cables and other stuff. We will show directly at least two matches per day with a projector and a “home made” giant screen. There is a lot of enthusiasm and expectation in the village and in the neighbourhood. In Mapourdit at the moment there are no TV sets. You can therefore imagine the expectation for the South Africa World Cup and also, most of all, for the Mapourdit World Cup. Men, women, young people, children will participate to an event that will make them jump thousands of kilometres on the world scene into another country.  This will also help them to learn that there is a bigger world than the one of their villages, tribes, clans, and country. For too many decades, during the war, they have been geographically, economically and culturally completely isolated. This has influenced their character, culture, and pride. This initiative will contribute to the growth and to the mental opening of the people and to recognize the beauty and wealth that can be shared with other peoples.

Finals: 11th July 2010

All the preparation and the activities have been made possible thanks to the availability of many young people that offered their help to coordinate together the initiative. Together they are working very hard. This is already a very positive sign of what will come in the future. The mobilisation of the young and of the whole village for the different initiatives are also a way to start other activities for the new Youth Centre that we are endeavouring to put together with the building of a few rooms to host meetings for spiritual and human formation.

At the moment we only have a few huts and an open area, which we want to develop into sports and educational structures. If someone wants to help… he or she is more than welcome!

On July 11th, the last day of the South African World Cup, we too will celebrate our Finals. At the end we shall have a ceremony with medals and trophies for the winners of the various competitions, including the Knowledge Cup. And a lot of feasting and dancing…. During the evening, all together we will watch the football Final in South Africa. We can already say that Africa and Mapourdit have won their game.

That the “best” wins! That life wins!

Fr. Daniele Moschetti
Comboni Missionaries


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