Playing for Peace

South Sudan Welcomes Playing for Peace

Aug. 29, 2011

JUBA, South Sudan – Amid the dusty dirt roads of Juba, South Sudan, there is an echoing message of unity, peace and joy being delivered. The message is coming from all angles; via the national newspapers, television, radio and believe it or not, mobile DJs driving through the streets. All channels of communication are spreading the good news, whether the media platform is South Sudan TV or via Land Cruisers equipped with generators and audio systems to communicate to the thousands of internally displaced people in temporary housing throughout Juba.

The message: Come out and support South Sudan basketball through Notre Dame’s Playing for Peace basketball initiative that has arrived in South Sudan, the world’s newest nation.

The initiative, started by the Notre Dame men’s lacrosse and men’s basketball teams, has been taken to South Sudan by Kevin Dugan, manager of youth and community programs for the Notre Dame athletics department. Dugan is on location in South Sudan for 10 days of international sports development work. South Sudan just received its independence and now faces an incredible challenge of nation building while uniting a region of the world that is heavily divided among tribal and ethnic lines.

Following independence, Dugan began consulting with Catholic Relief Services, the South Sudan Basketball Federation (SSBF) and the South Sudan Demobilization and Demilitarization and Reintegration Commission (SSDDRC) on how to best execute the event. On the ground there has been an incredible collaboration between the community, church and government partners to turn the Playing for Peace Championships into a powerful and symbolic event in South Sudan.

It has been an exciting and hectic week for Dugan; he has had an emerging world experience in sports marketing that has proved to be invaluable.

“Pulling this event together with the local community has been pure inspiration. People here in South Sudan have so much hope in the future of their new nation, but along with that, there is an absolute incredible atmosphere of excitement surrounding the future of basketball in this country,” said Dugan. “It has been a crazy week of non-stop event planning, meetings and interviews. I’ve been flying around the streets of Juba on the back of a motorcycle from government offices, to the South Sudan TV station, to the radio station to the print shop to meet with NGOs to basketball practice.”

There is no wonder Playing for Peace is getting so much attention right now (the championship game will be broadcast on South Sudan TV.) It brings together the two things that people in South Sudan love to talk about right now, peace and basketball.

“The grassroots effort of basketball players, the church, government officials and the media has been incredible,” said Dugan. “This event is going to be a perfect example of the way sports can be used as a form of social and human development in the emerging world.”

A few brief notes on Dugan’s visit to East Africa:

Sports and peace building: Dugan has been working with SSDDRC to work on a sports program to aid in the reintegration of former SPLA Child Soldiers. Sports are an incredible emotional release and outlet for these children. Dugan has been working with SSDDRC staff to share the fundamentals of the successful “Take 10” program that is run through the Robinson Center as well as the Play Like A Champion educational program run out the Institute for Educational Initiatives. The biggest problem for the SSDDRC is former child combatants with idle time on their hands, when these kids have nothing to do they tend to find trouble or try to rejoin the army. The SSDDRC would love to see these kids spending their free time on the soccer pitch or the basketball courts.

Commitment to women’s sports: Upon achieving independence, the first new initiative of the SSBF was to formalize a women’s basketball program. Dugan has been joining with SSBF officials to run the first ever girls’ basketball clinics in South Sudan and the Playing for Peace basketball championship will feature a women’s basketball exhibition game.

Working with the global church: While South Sudan is the world’s newest nation, the Catholic University of South Sudan is the world’s newest university. Dugan will be speaking at the mass of the Holy Spirit to kick start the new school year at the CUOSS. He is also working with Brother Jorge Fayad to organize the first ever sports day at the university. The Catholic University of South Sudan Sports Day will run parallel to the Playing for Peace Championships and create a sports festival atmosphere in Juba this Saturday.

African History in Uganda: Prior to traveling to South Sudan, Dugan spent two weeks in Uganda were his Fields of Growth organization orchestrated the first ever lacrosse national championships on African soil. In an event that was featured on national radio, in the newspapers and on East African TV, the Kampala Panthers of the Uganda Lacrosse Union took home the victory in the first annual King’s Cup.

Much has already been done, but the main event took place August 27 at the Juba 1 Basketball Court. The Playing for Peace Championships will take the spirit of last December’s event at Notre Dame to the front lines of Juba, South Sudan. There was a six-team tournament and championship, youth basketball clinic, women’s exhibition game, slam dunk contest, three-point contest, traditional dancers, DJ and a message of peace and unity through sports.