Soccer, biking, running, swimming, volleyball, long boarding, the list of sports I enjoy could go on and on. The thrill of sports, the competition, the dedication, are elements shared among all athletes. After being introduced to the beautiful game of soccer at age 4 and still playing at the age of 32, being a “soccer player” is part of my identity.
For those of you that are players, fans or athletes of another sport, imagine where you would be without the game you love? Where would my life be without soccer? Or maybe I ought to delve deeper and ask Who would I be? It’s a tough question, simply because I can’t imagine living without soccer.
I know that soccer taught me teamwork in grade school & discipline thru high school. It forced me to make sacrifices, to sweat, to have stamina and endurance. Soccer introduced me to teammates and to friends from places all over the world. To me it trumps all other sports. Soccer tops the ranks among the world’s games & yes I realize that can stir a bit of hullabaloo among other sport lovers, but voiced in the arena of kyck.com I think it’s a safe claim.
If soccer had given so much to me over the years, what could be done to give back? This significance of this question didn’t fully come to fruition until I traveled outside the United States. I experienced the typical European tour during College - a great introduction to lives lived in a non-American way. Then traveling in my twenties to Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico, Dominican Republic & West Africa. It was in these places I experienced that race, age, gender, rich or poor, soccer was a common language & an equalizing ground. I learned that for people living in impoverished conditions, in areas we casually refer to as “third world countries”, soccer can mean so much more.
Futbol permeates most cultures with an astounding pride to their country, to their favorite professional club and their own homegrown leagues. Frankly, people live (& die) for it. Many who face living in difficult environments soccer serves as an escape from tough realities. It keeps kids off the streets, away from drugs, it can lead to education and it gives a positive focus amongst challenging circumstances. Despite the intangible qualities soccer provides, opportunity to play the game isn’t as accessible as one might think.
I’ve never had to walk 10 km for a bucket of water and then head to soccer practice. I don’t have to worry about malaria while resting up for a game. And in the same (less life-threatening) thought I haven’t had to use garbage to make shift a ball, play barefoot on a rocky field or be concerned that my team doesn’t have jerseys. It became very real to me that I had taken for granted the amenities. Cleats, jerseys, soccer balls are not automatically on hand, as I had known them to be growing up with the game.
In 2008 PeacePassers.org was founded with the mission to collect & distribute soccer supplies to people and communities throughout the world. Do you have an old pair of cleats from the last time you upgraded your boots or soccer balls collecting dust in the garage? Does your soccer club change uniforms every season? The surplus of equipment among youth soccer leagues, high schools, colleges, former players, coaches etc is astounding. Kids outgrow shoes and they get new jerseys with each team. It’s our culture it’s what we do, replace renew. The Peace Passers organization advocates recycling, and putting gear back into play. Peace Passers provides a way for people to donate their new & used soccer gear and so far has collected over 23,000 items reaching 47 different countries.
More and more young players are leading community service projects and kids are choosing to host birthday parties encouraging their friends to bring soccer balls instead of gifts. It is a tangible way for young players to recognize that they have the power to share the game with others, and it becomes contagious. Community service isn’t just a chore it has actually become a cool thing to do!of the game.
Peace Passers does not have the capacity to ship donated gear, instead distributions are accomplished through collaboration with mission teams, sports ministries & other non-profits. Volunteers offer to carry gear in luggage or organize shipments that ensure equipment reaches areas of the world that would otherwise have little to no access to soccer equipment. Peace Passers connects people who have gear to donate with requests for gear. It’s a spot on example of collaboration. Whether you donate gear, host a collection drive or offer to carry gear to an area of need it all comes full circle in sharing the game.
To see some of the action become a fan & send the good word about Peace Passers onto your friends and family. Ask yourself that scary question, where would you be without soccer? If you find it like I do, to be a difficult answer then I encourage you to pass it forward and help in continuing to share the game with deserving people around the world.
Special thanks to the guys at Kyck.com for posting this blog & extending it out to the network. Peace Passers is looking forward to engaging with Kyck’s new digital platform that will no doubt open doors for enhancing the local & global connections that makes soccer thrive!
Candace Murray currently lives in Charlotte, NC. If you have equipment to donate, interest in organizing a fundraiser or would like to help distribute gear on your next trip contact her at email@example.com
Peace Passers is a non-profit organization tax deductible under the 501(c)(3) code of the IRS.