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Through the Eyes of a Child . . .
By: MAJOR STEPHEN L CABANLET PN(M)
They came to Manila excitedly despite of the uncertainty of what was in store for them. As they arrived at the airport, doubts about their capacity to score even a single point in the football games the following day manifest in their query on how big will their opponents be. They have only one thing in mind, how to play and win in the 1st Philippine Marine Corps "Football for Peace" Festival. As the activity commenced the following day, Sulu children were appeased with the warm welcome. As if given water mixed with elixir of confidence, they joined the crowd determined to showcase what they got.
They played toe to toe with every opponent, but every strong kick that they gave were met with much stronger ones. Every fast dribble towards goal was aborted by a faster player of the other team. Players from the other teams, though of the same age as the Sulu children, were much bigger in stature. Frustration got the best of most of the player after each game and they ended up blaming one or the other. But just like any other children their “recovery” was fast and their determination to do better on the next game patch the differences brought by their defeat. On the first two games they could only bring the ball half their field. Better attempts were done in the succeeding two games, but the fifth and last game was an amazing 3 to 3 tie with the opponent. The result of the last game became their leverage, from their mouths were the words “we need the marines in our place to train us some more.”
If only the basis of winning the game were the gears, delegates from Sulu would have won. For the first time in their short football career that they wore jerseys not only of good quality but brand new. Also, they were given the opportunity to have two choices with regards to shoes as two pairs of quality soccer shoes were also given. From no shoes to two pairs, they need not practice barefoot any longer. Unused to complete uniform, though, the goalie blamed his gloves for missing the ball most of the time resulting to infinite score of the opponent, and true enough he performed better when he was allowed to play without it. Although unexpressed, Sulu children were thankful to those who believe that they as children “are the key to lasting peace” and therefore made all the effort to provide them with things they could only long for.
The players may have lost the game but the coaches who are members of PMC MBLT-3 had succeeded in every angle. First, PMC has gained trust of the Tausug parents deep enough for them to entrust their “vulnerable” to be brought to Manila without accompanying adult. Indirectly these parents have allowed these children to see “the other side” by themselves therefore exposing the children to the possibility of liking the “marines way” better than the ways of the brother enemies. Secondly, PMC as the initiator of peace has opened the floodgates of opportunity for the Tausug children as many were convinced and are now working to use football as the channel for long term change in Sulu.
Lastly and most important was the success of inculcating the value of unity to achieve a common goal. These children, who also happened to be members of different warring clan, willingly let go of the blaming during the game and just played their roles the best way they could and achieved better results. Jokingly, one of the children said that they could suggest to their parents to end land dispute through a game of FOOTBALL!