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The Dream of Peace and Estonia
Estonia is one of the Baltic States, located just below Finland. It is a unique place, with a very independent people. They managed to retain their language under Soviet rule through the national pastime… singing. Estonian songfests are famous in Europe. The Estonian love for music kept the language alive in the dark days of communism when they continued to sing in their native language. In 1991, their road to freedom was called the Singing Revolution, and Estonia was the first county to declare independence from the Soviet Union.
Play Football Make Peace (PFMP), a project of the World Association of NGOs (WANGO) and a Peace Dream Foundation (PDF) partner, has been active in Estonia since 2004. At that time, the WANGO member, FC Vaprus, was asked to put on a tournament as part of the launch of the PFMP outreach. FC Vaprus had been running the Summer Cup in Parnu (the town where Vaprus plays) since 2003, so already had experience in running tournaments. Playing under the banner of Football for Peace was something which Reigo Tonsberg, the Vaprus co-owner, took very much to heart.
PFMP has been working with Reigo ever since. Based upon a shared vision which Reigo and Robin Graham, the PFMP program director, developed in 2006, a plan was set in motion to partner up with the Parnu Summer Cup for 2007 and launch a strategy to influence European football and to develop and provide a model for UEFA to use. The basis of this strategy was to introduce the ideas that when lived can lead to peace through football.
During 2005 there had been remarkable shifts. The United Nations had recommended the use of sports as a tool for development and FIFA began to partner with NGOs to express its commitment to social responsibility. PFMP, at that time, was exploring not only ways to encourage service to others, but also to explore the ethics within sports which could lead to improved social and economic development. Over the previous ten years, in small but effective programs, there had been a growing interest in how character development in sports could have an influence on personal, family and community growth.
PFMP and FC Vaprus launched the Parnu Summer Cup - Play Football Make Peace in 2007, a partnership to explore these ideas and to develop a model which could be incubated in a small country, but which, if successful, could then be shared with the rest of Europe. The Parnu Summer Cup 2008 has now developed the model further.
Because WANGO has made a strategic partnership with the Peace Dream Foundation, through the growing relationship with PFMP, the tournament organizers have now arranged for the cups awarded to the three prizewinners and those awards for Fair Play to be in honor of the new partnership with the Peace Dream Foundation and named the Peace Dream Cup and the Peace Dream Trophy. The peace concept is now becoming very familiar to the players, coaches, and parents. This makes it much easier to share ideas on teaching values through football which can help youth develop healthy minds and healthy bodies.
Another feature, which is very memorable, is that the tournament has the largest cake in Estonia. This year it was named the Peace Dream cake. It is a striking feature which no other tournament has and makes the Parnu Cup very unique. The association with PDF gives the tournament even more possibilities to grow and differentiate itself from other tournaments throughout Scandinavia in 2009 and beyond. The partners and tournament organizers have decided to re-brand the tournament as The Peace Dream Cup, Parnu. There is a commitment to make the Peace Dream Cup the most significant tournament in Europe over the next five years. The location of Estonia makes it a natural bridge between countries in Scandinavia and Europe. The concept of peace makes the Estonian tournament a natural bridge to reduce tensions and to help solve past resentments between neighboring countries. WANGO is definitely fulfilling its mission to connect and serve NGOs.
The 2008 Parnu Summer Cup attracted 97 teams and close to 1600 players from 10-16 years old. It has grown to become the largest tournament in Estonia and the Baltics.
The 2008 Parnu Summer Cup, June 26-29
The cooperation with FC Vaprus, The Peace Dream Foundation (PDF) and PFMP in organizing the Summer Cup is reaching new levels of achievement. Reigo Tonsberg and Robin Graham made plans back in 2006 and early 2007 to position the Parnu Summer Cup to be a vehicle for a commitment to create change in the current football culture. This was started in a partnership renaming the tournament The Parnu SummerCup – Play Football Make Peace. This already signaled that there was a qualitative difference between the Parnu tournament and other tournaments in the Baltic nations and throughout Scandinavia. Just adding the words football and peace already triggered positive responses from coaches and parents alike in 2007.
For some, the game may still be simply about winning at any cost. But increasingly we are seeing that coaches have an interest in discovering or rediscovering the beauty of the game; that football is not only about physical mastery and skills, but that it aspires to promote true sportsmanship, respect and a good attitude to life. The Estonian Football Association (EFA) president, Aivar Pohlak, has for a long time been an advocate for a renewed vision for football. He is a member of the FIFA Fair Play and Social Responsibility Committee and has been very active in UEFA voicing his concern that football should be a sport to be played and enjoyed by all, and that football should contribute back to society.
Reigo and Robin saw the potential for a strategic alliance with Aivar Pohlak and that a shared vision could emerge whereby Estonia through the EFA could be a gateway to introduce a new paradigm for football to Europe and UEFA. Mr. Pohlak came to the last day of the Summer Cup in 2007 and the relationship began. Since then there has been a continuing dialogue. By the start of the 2008 Parnu Summer Cup many action steps were already in place. For example, the EFA is now partnering with PFMP to hold a seminar for all Estonian coaches, trainers and managers in November 2008; the EFA is actively engaged in the highly regarded international football project, Football for Peace. This promotes peaceful coexistence between the communities of Israel and Palestine through integrated youth football. Two members of the Estonian women’s national team traveled to Israel in July 2008 to participate in this award winning program, organized by the University of Brighton, England, and the German Sports University in Cologne. This has all been coordinated with the EFA by Reigo and PFMP. All this would not have been possible without the continuing foundation and cooperation between PFMP and the Summer Cup.
An example of PFMP’s intention to include other NGOs and partners was the pre-tournament seminar held in Tallinn, Estonia’s capital, on Wednesday, June 25. About 15 people attended, representing NGOs, the media, and the International Olympic Committee of Estonia.
There they listened to PFMP Director of Education, Mr. David Stewart give the presentation on The Way of Champions, which introduces the principles and values which PFMP believes can help shift football culture to help build a better society. The response to the presentation was excellent. There is so much in the 5 principles and 10 values which is common to sports and non-sports people alike. PFMP is hoping to link up with fellow travelers and cooperate with them to add even more value to the PFMP outreach to youth through football. There is much to be done to build awareness and to actively support social programs. NGOs are at the forefront of citizen action and PFMP is committed to partner with the best NGOs to help and serve both football youth and the communities they live in. NGOs are particularly active in Estonia.
There is a need for football youth to “walk the talk.” Since 2004, PFMP has asked the young footballers entering its programs to participate in voluntary social service projects for 4 hours per month. For the 2008 Summer Cup, PFMP recruited the help of a local service projects organizer, Mr. Avo Martinson, to arrange service projects in Parnu which players could join to actively model PFMP’s vision of the relationship between football and social responsibility. This activity took place on Saturday, June 28.
There were two programs. One involved cleaning up litter in a local park. Over 30 youth were involved, among them members of the one Russian team in the tournament. Given the historical animosity and strained relationships in the last two years between Russia and Estonia, it was amazing to see Russian youth doing a service project to help Estonia’s environment. The teamwork was great: there were many trash bags filled in 30 minutes of consistent work.
A second project involved helping to paint benches and garden objects in an old people’s home in Parnu. The director of the home was amazed by the enthusiasm of the players. Teams from Ukraine, Finland and Estonia were involved. Parents and organizers helped. The vice-mayor of Parnu also attended, and was very supportive. The home provided ice cream and drinks to the volunteers. It was a great experience for all involved.
The projects are an example of the kind of programs that can be arranged in the coming year for the Estonian Football Association. Plans have been put in place to start projects for FC Vaprus youth players (about 250 players) and follow-up projects will follow for other football clubs which join the program. In April of 2008, Aivar Pohlak was very enthusiastic about the concept of young footballers involving themselves in service projects. Through the Summer Cup 2008, PFMP offered an immediate launch of this service initiative which can be adopted by the EFA and Aivar Pohlak.
The Summer Cup and PFMP Principles and Values
On Friday night (it remains light very late in the far north) after an exhibition game between coaches and tournament organizers, coaches were invited to a presentation of The Way of Champions in the Rannahotel. Though it was late in the evening, about 25 coaches turned up. Of course many more had their youth teams to care for, as it was getting close to curfew at 10 PM, so the turn-out was quite impressive.
Again Mr. David Stewart gave the presentation. It was very well received. A national reporter for the leading sports magazine was also present and very impressed by the program. It is significant that coaches recognize the simplicity of the ideas, yet the universal appeal that they have and the willingness of coaches to adopt them. Of course this is not a one-time solution and needs a programmatic approach with continued training and shared experience. It is important to note that though coaches may be reluctant to gather to share tactics and strategies for playing football, they are willing to get together to discuss positive values.
At first it may seem that education about peace should start with discussions about geopolitics, national, ethnic and religious divisions, but the PFMP educational program starts with principles which deal with player behavior on & off the pitch. Football behaviors and attitudes begin with the game, but can be taken off the pitch and become part of everyday life. In this way football can teach about peace and self mastery. Peace begins within each person. Football is a great vehicle to teach this.
The presentation is a simple step to introduce the Peace Dream concept. The strategy is to begin with coaches and their youth and build a holistic education for the players through which the coach teaches more than just the physical skills by introducing and modeling the principles and values for success. This is a transformative approach. Not top down, but bottom up.
Peace may appear to be made at the conference tables of the world’s super powers. But in reality peace begins in our homes, in our communities, around the dinner table. It begins in the heightened emotions of stressful situations, like on the football field. Can the player keep self-control? Can he/she have self mastery? This is where the Peace Dream becomes a reality. The engagement of coaches in this process is how the vision of peace can be stimulated and be made real.
The Parnu Summer Cup and the Peace Dream Cake
A highlight of the tournament was the cutting of the tournament cake. In 2007, the Summer Cup started the tradition of the “peace cake.” This was decided to be a symbol of youth footballers sharing in peace. In 2008 the cake was the largest ever made in Estonia. It is known as the Peace Dream cake. The cake helps to focus the event on its overall theme. The cake was divided up between all the participating teams and they also received certificates of participation and gifts from sponsors. PFMP handed out a DVD which had a film about the purpose of the program and The Way of Champions presentation.
The Saturday evening activities were almost spoiled by rain, but the atmosphere was great and there was no stopping the event. PFMP Program Director, Robin Graham thanked the gathered players and their parents and offered the day’s service projects and social responsibility activities to those gathered in the stands. The banner “Football is Socially Responsible!” was highlighted in front of the entire crowd.
The vice mayor of Parnu came to thank the teams for attending and with Mr. Graham cut a section of the Peace Dream cake to symbolize a successful completion of the major part of the tournament.
The Peace Dream Cup
Sunday, June 29 was the last day with the final matches to decide first, second, and third places. The older age bracket of under-16 year olds competed for the Champion’s Peace Dream Cup. A Ukrainian team, Slavutich won the tournament and their captain received the Peace Dream Cup presented by Mr. Jason Sue from the PDF. All the team and coaching staff received the Peace Dream gold medals.
Second and third place Peace Dream Cups were presented by Mr. Robin Graham and Mr. David Stewart with silver and bronze Peace Dream medals for all the players and coaching staff. The winning and runner-up trophies were awarded to the younger age groups, and the presentations were made by Mr. Ivo Tahk, President of FC Vaprus.
Finally, the center piece of the Peace Dream cake, with the name and logo of Peace Dream, was cut by the organizing partners and the last pieces were enjoyed by the remaining players. This concluded the successful tournament with another step forward for the launch of the Peace Dream Foundation in Estonia, a strategic location within Europe. WANGO partners are working together to bring real change in the world.