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The Peace Village are the custodians of one of the world’s most poignant football pitch. To play a game of football at Flanders Fields is more than a game. The whole experience contextualizes football way beyond the modern game’ Flanders Peace Pitch is the most level playing field you will every play on’, says, Matti Vandemeale, Director of The Peace Village’.
The Peace Village celebrated its 10th birthday this year. Can you summarise what have been the highlights in the last 10 years?
The first thing that was important was that we had to fill the ‘hostel’ with people coming over. Now we reach 20,000 people a year who come to visit the battlefields from across the world. Second thing we achieved was to create meaningful and interesting peace projects for our guests. We try to offer young and old visitors, projects, ceremonies, workshops and sports activities – including football, to help them making ‘peace’ more concrete. I am glad we reached the point of being more than just the best bed and breakfast in the region. We are also an active actor in making peace events and guiding people in the region. I’m also proud that we could translate the story of the Christmas truces into concrete projects e.g. the Global Peace Games, The Peace Field Project and International Day of Peace with the NCFA and partners.
What is the best part about your job and why?
The best part is for me when we can ‘help’ one of the young people visiting the region in giving him / her an experience with a lifelong memory of their visit. Sometimes we have ‘challenging’ groups of young and older people who may have special needs or come from difficult backgrounds and when we engage them in history, they contextualise their home lives with the incredible stories of the First World War, especially The Christmas Truces.
The Peace Village receives over 20,000 guests a year. What memories do you think they take back home and what kind of messages do they leave in the visitor’s book?
Mostly get positive feedback. We try to do our best in giving them the things they need and even more. The memories they take home are usually from the tour they did in the region. They general connect with the awesome amount of facts, stats and names, of soldiers that came from around the world to fight in The First World War can have a positive impact. We bespoke our programmes to meet the needs of many different communities and cultures. Things that may work for one person / group doesn’t necessarily work for another person / group. It’s the tour guiding in the region that makes us special. It is the excellent facilities that provide a relaxing trip. So, when they go home with a good feeling we here at The Peace Village are happy too.
The Peace Village and The NCFA continue to inspire young peacemakers for the future through the Peace Fields Projects, Global Peace Games and International Day of Peace. How difficult is it to generate funding for these projects and why is finding funding so difficult?
I believe in the kind of projects that we do with the NCFA. They are unique in terms of formal and informal learning. The problem is that we must conform to a tick box culture. Funding streams are regimental they are very difficult to adapt to with what we do here and funding streams do not consider the long-term sustainability of any one project in terms of development. They tend to be focused on a current elective government policy which hinders and sense of unity. The projects we achieve with The NCFA are cross-curricular based, they engage young people in football, sports and sportsmanship. In addition, the projects involve history, art, languages, citizenship, conflict resolution and debates on peace. Funders tend to be more myopic focused on individual projects. Our projects are a combination of elements, which can be viewed currently as a weakness rather than funders sharing the vision as a strength.
What would you like to see The Peace Village achieve in the next 10 years?
I hope we can reach more people with the educational and project work we are doing, I hope our collaboration in football and sports with the NCFA continues to make peace makers for the future and that we can find funding to work on a permanent base without everyday funding concerns. I hope we can play an active role in peace building across the world. So, projects where we make the link between WWI and conflicts and working with young people in solving these conflicts of today.
For more information about The Peace Village click on: http://www.peacevillage.be/
BIFC is a medium sized non-profit Soccer Club serving the Bainbridge Island WA community and attracting players from around the Kitsap Pennisula. We offer a range of programs and competitive levels at all ages. At BIFC we believe soccer is about doing things properly. About making sure everyone has a chance to be involved in soccer, regardless of ability, gender, or disability. About encouraging and increasing the involvement at all levels of soccer, and about having fun doing it. It’s about making opportunities available, and about using the power of soccer to build the best environment for our players to thrive as they seek their own pathway in playing the beautiful game. Our club logo provides the essence of our program where our stars on our jerseys represent soccer for all. There is a place for you at BIFC – come join us!
Why doe your club think it is important to twin with Flanders Peace Field?
This is a brilliant concept that offers BIFC a way to expand, in a positive and global sense, our soccer culture on Bainbridge Island. For our youth, this is important and positive history to know and understand at a time when typical news on a global scale is about tragedy, conflict and war. Allows for the application of modern day sportsmanship and fair play in a historical context. We also would like to twin with Flanders Peace Field and create links with like-minded clubs through the International Children’s Football Alliance across Europe and the rest of the world.
THE FIRST CLUB IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Bainbridge Island Football Club, Seattle, USA are the first soccer club in the States to twin their soccer pitch with Flander’s Peace Field, site of the 1914 Christmas Truces. Paul Cooper, National Projects Director at The International Children’s Football Allaince presented Matti Vandemeale, Director of The Peace Village, BIFC’s Peace Field Project Plaque on the United Nations International Day of Peace (21st September, 2016) in Messines, Belgium.
International Children’s Football Alliance stakeholders Slum Soccer has won the inaugural FIFA Diversity Award today. The award was created by FIFA to recognise outstanding organisations, group initiatives and football personalities that are standing up for diversity and inspire unity, solidarity and equality among all people. Slum Soccer uses football to connect individuals, teach life skills and work towards improving the living conditions of women and marginalised populations in Indian society.
The other two finalists were the International Gay & Lesbian Football Association (IGLFA), which promotes and fosters the worldwide growth of football for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals (LGBT) while also strengthening the self-respect of the global LGBT community, and Kick It Out, of England, an organisation which enables, facilitates and works with football authorities, professional clubs, players, fans and communities to tackle all forms of discrimination.
The award was presented by FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura alongside former Dutch international Clarence Seedorf and former German international Thomas Hitzlsperger, members of the jury for the FIFA Diversity Award. The 11 members of the jury, including former football professionals and experts, have a wealth of global experience in various areas of diversity and anti-discrimination, whether related to ethnic, national or social origin, gender, disability, language, religion, political opinion, sexual orientation or any other form of discrimination. The ceremony, which was held at the Soccerex Global Convention in Manchester, UK, and was hosted by CNN anchor Amanda Davies, provided the occasion for a lively discussion on diversity in sport.