Jordan: U.S. Humanitarian Mine Action Supports Football Festival

Posted by Dennis Hadrick
April 19, 2010
Mine Risk Education Soccer Camp in Amman, Jordan

About the Author: Dennis Hadrick serves as a Program Manager for the Office of Weapons Removal & Abatement in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.

Childhood is far from carefree for millions of children growing up in countries recovering from conflict. Even a simple game of football -- that's soccer to you and me here in the United States -- entails serious risk of injury or even death when a playing field may contain hidden hazards such as buried landmines or unexploded munitions. I recently returned from a trip to Amman, Jordan, where the United States partnered with a host of nongovernmental partners to sponsor a special soccer tournament to raise awareness of these dangers for children and coaches participating from Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and the West Bank.

As the world's single largest financial contributor to post-conflict efforts to remove landmines and unexploded munitions, the United States is proud to have partnered with dozens of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to deliver more than $1.5 billion in aid so far to reduce risks in nearly 50 countries through our U.S. Humanitarian Mine Action Program. But survey and clearance operations are only half of the story: U.S. Humanitarian Mine Action also supports Survivor Assistance programs to help the injured and their families, as well as Mine Risk Education programs like this one aimed at preventing injuries in the first place.

The festival was conceived by Spirit of Soccer, one of our 63 partners in humanitarian mine action. Founded in 1996 by coach Scotty Lee after witnessing first-hand the impact of landmines and unexploded munitions on communities as a volunteer aid worker in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, Spirit of Soccer has been dedicated to using soccer to teach more than 75,000 children in Bosnia, Cambodia, Iraq, and Kosovo about the dangers of landmines and other explosive remnants of war. The Bureau of Political-Military Affairs has been an active supporter, providing grants worth more than $400,000 to Spirit of Soccer's Mine Risk Education efforts.

Working in partnership with FIFA, the Jordanian NGO Generation for Peace, the Jordanian National Committee for Demining and Rehabilitation and the Jordanian Soccer Federation, Spirit of Soccer opened the festival with a five-day coaching clinic and Mine Risk Education course for 30 boys and girls from some of the most heavily mined places in the world. This educational component was followed by a two-day football festival for 64 female and male players.

After the festival, the young participants will return to their local communities as coaches to organize football tournaments of their own -- as well as to spread the word among their peers about how to recognize and avoid landmines and unexploded munitions.

Who knew the "beautiful game" could do such a world of good?



United States
April 19, 2010

Jon in U.S.A. writes:

I think this a great idea and has the potential to make a difference. Yet, like so many programs I see using the sport of soccer, it falls short in any sustainable development. Very much like Right To Play, there is little connection other than feeling good for a single day. It is a missed opportunity when so much money is going into this kind of program that does not maintain a program that can stay in the area. A program that links actual athletes to continue there involvement with those who live there.

To add to my disappointment in this story, as a soccer athlete, I find the last statement on the question of the beautiful game insulting. What do you mean, who knew??? It is the most popular sport in the world. The game has a language all itself. How can you not know about the power of sport! Have you ever seen the Olympic Games? Have you ever paid attention to some of the events that take place at the World Cup utilizing the sport of soccer (outside of all the commercialism and marketing). The sport has always reached out and contains the potential to change lives. What is hard to read is how few seem to understand and recognize that it is not just a single day event. Don't get me wrong, the idea of creating a program that links the sport with an educational component, like land mine awareness, is outstanding. It just pains me to see that it is not followed through, playing out like an unfinished book. You could do so much more when this much effort goes into such a program. Still, what caught my attention and triggered my response to this story is how someone working in global affairs for a governmental agency is surprised how the sport of soccer can make a difference!!

United States
July 23, 2010

Kim in USA writes:

@ Jon,

It pleases me to inform you that your comment of "falls short in any sustainable development." falls short. Please investigate the work and history of Spirit of Soccer closer"
I think you will find that sustainability, appreciation of the beautiful game at a professional level and offering a programme that far exceeds the concept of only "one day of play" is exactly what Spirit of Soccer delivers. Please keep in mind that the initiative in Iraq is in it's preliminary stages of development, but will be carried out to the fullest extent as has been with all of Spirit of Soccer's Projects.


Latest Stories

August 19, 2010

A Critical Milestone in Iraq

Writing for the U.S. Department of State DipNote blog, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq Michael Corbin describes a… more
August 18, 2010

Honoring World Humanitarian Day

Writing for the U.S. Department of State DipNote blog, DipNote Bloggers excerpt remarks by Eric Schwartz, Assistant Secretary for the… more