‘Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers.’ Nelson Mandela
In March 1994 Rwandan football player Eric Murangwa Eugene led his team, Rayon Sports, to victory against players from Sudan, on their home turf in Kigali. For a few hours people who had been driven apart by politics were brought together celebrating their victory. Three weeks later President Juvénal Habyarimana’s plane was shot down, starting a meticulously planned genocide. Up to a million Rwandan Tutsis would loose their lives in just 100 days. Eric survived the genocide, hidden by his team-mates at Rayon Sports. He believes that football saved his life.
This event opens with a screening of Soccer My Saviour, Kyri Evangelou’s evocative short documentary telling Eric’s story of survival and the organisation he founded after the genocide: Football for Hope, Peace and Unity (FHPU). This will be followed by a panel discussion exploring the role of football in building tolerance and social cohesion both in the UK and overseas with guest speakers from the worlds of academia, media and football.
To what extent does football heal rifts between communities and help young people to form positive bonds, be that in an inner city London borough or on a hilltop in Rwanda? In the UK the history of football in public spaces has at times been regrettably violent. Are there any dangers and challenges involved in promoting sport as a proponent for peace? What is it about the nature of the game, the play – for both players and spectators – that has the potential to move us so deeply?
Eric Murangwa Eugene is a football player and coach. He is the Founder and Director of two post-conflict charities: Football for Hope, Peace and Unity and Survivors Tribune.
Kyri Evangelou is the Director of Soccer My Saviour. His documentary projects have taken him to Palestine, Kenya, Egypt and most recently Rwanda, where he also works with the Aegis Trust.
John Sugden is a leading international expert on sport and peace-building in divided societies. An award-winning author and Professor of the Sociology of Sport at the University of Brighton, he is Director and co-founder of the university’s Football for Peace programme.
Kelvyn Quagraine has participated in training sessions run by Football Beyond Borders for young people in some of London’s most deprived estates and schools.
Zoe Norridge is Senior Lecturer in English and Comparative Literature at King’s. In 2014 she presented the awardwinning BBC documentary Living with Memory in Rwanda.