Download Some people play football only to win – for them, it’s all about who scores the most goals.
But others believe it’s more than a game: because it’s a team sport, it can teach people to cooperate together.
Religious conflict is a burning issue in Indonesia. Recent studies show that in both religious schools and high schools, radical violence against minority communities is a real threat.
This includes Banten province, often called a ‘hotbed’ of radicalism.
Can football promote peace in Banten?
Damar Fery Ardiyan visited an Islamic school there to find out.
Football is one of the most popular sports in Indonesia.
16-year old Ulin Nuha plays it every day with his school mates.
“I’m happy every time I play. Studying is stressful for me and I can relax a bit by playing football.”
Here in Banten’s Quthorul Falah Islamic School, football is more than just a sport.
Students are learning to work together as they play.
Abdul Aziz from the Asian Football Academy is the coach.
“We play a game called ‘relay race’. We kick the ball and at the same time we arrange words out of paper sheets to create a sentence on the field. We learn about working together to reach a certain objective. If we can’t cooperate, there will be conflict, and we won’t reach our objective. And through football, we teach the students that when they find themselves in a conflict, they have to learn to negotiate and work together.”
The program is called ‘Football for Peace’.
Other schools have joined in across the country, including Aceh and West Java – all of them considered vulnerable to Islamic radicalism.
Football is used because as a team sport, everyone plays different roles - just like a society.
Maghfiroh Hijroatul leads the program. She’s from Search for Common Ground, an international NGO whose mission is to transform how people deal with conflict.
”We explain to students in Islamic schools that there are differences and sects, even within Islam. There are many things that we still don’t know about right now. For example, the case of Ahmadiyah.”
Ahmadiyah is a small sect within Islam. Its members have been targeted by other Islamic extremists.
February last year, some Ahmadiyah members were attacked by a mob in Banten – three of them were murdered.
Later, the district court only sentenced the attackers to between 3 and 6 months in jail.
“If someone has an open mind and skills to handle conflict, this can prevent violence. Peace is a long process. We have to sit together, and try to understand the things we don’t know about yet.”
Maghfiroh explains why the program is run in Islamic schools.
“Indonesia has thousands of Islamic schools and many assume that Islamic boarding schools are the centre of terror. We don’t want that idea to spread. We want to disseminate seeds of tolerance and peace in society. [So] we ran the program in Cirebon where a suicide bomber detonated an explosive device in a mosque in a police compound. We also have the program in Solo because it’s near the Ngruki Islamic school.”
Dozens of the Bali bombers studied at the Ngruki school. Nearly 200 people died from their bombs in 2002, in Indonesia’s largest terrorist attack.
The school headmaster in Banten Achmad Syatibi Hambali supports the program.
“This is a really good exercise to promote peace. Nowadays people can be easily irritated and react violently towards small things. Through football one can learn about cooperation. It’s important not just in the Muslim community but in other communities as well.”
Back on the pitch, the coach is teaching the students another lesson through football.
”It’s a game called ‘check in, check out’. The main idea is to accept different cultural backgrounds amongst the students. Everyone has to pass a ball directly to another person near him, no matter what that person’s cultural background. When I say ‘check out’, that person should pass the ball to someone else.”
Ulin, who plays the game regularly, realizes now that it can teach him about values, and not just improve his physical fitness.
”I learn how to be patient from playing football. I will be a better person if I’m patient and cooperate with others. I will apply this outside the field.”