In August 2015, a group of ten students, staff and alumni travelled to Seoul, Republic of Korea to run a Football 4 Peace (F4P) training camp at Seoul National University. The event was to train staff and students from the Physical Education Department and at the Institute of Peace and Reunification Studies in how to teach values and life skills through sport and physical activity.
The event was organised by The Korean Sharing Movement (KSM) an NGO working in both the north and south of the peninsula. Since 2013, KSM have been running F4P programmes in Seoul for children from North Korean ‘Defector’ families and children form the south. The premise is to not only help with integration difficulties but to prepare people for reunification which is still a hope for people on both sides of the border. This was the first time training has been delivered in Korea.
Participants are tasked with reflecting on their experiences. Not only does it give vital feedback to those organising training programmes and intervention initiatives but it allows individuals to consider their role, think about what they learned and how it has affected them whilst contemplating how they can make use of their experience in their future work and decisions. Some were new to F4P like most of their Korean peers whilst some, like our graduates were highly experienced and have been volunteering on F4P for a number of years.
Student Tim Cetinich studying Sport & Leisure Management BA(Hons) (now Sport Business Management BSc) has volunteered on F4P programmes in the UK and The Gambia since the start of his second year and has a keen interest in using sport for peace and development purposes. Tim shares his experiences of Korea:
“The first part of our trip to Korea was the training camp. This was conducted over four days, which consisted of the trained F4P coaches teaching the Korean coaches in our methodology, attending lectures by F4P coaches and academics at the Seoul National University and other experts linked to this specific field; and then the final day there was a F4P Festival where children from the Korean programme joined for a day of fun.
“One of the most pleasant things that I experienced was how welcoming as well as kind all of the Korean coaches were. Even though there was a language barrier with some of the coaches, they were more than willing and excited to learn and improve their coaching skills. For me this was something that I felt was really important as it shows that they really want to try and make change and learn from the information provided to them. It made me feel that all the effort and work we’re putting in to teach them about the methodology is appreciated and not taken for granted. This was the same for the presentations that were given, the majority of people were highly engaged and interested in learning more to then be able to influence those that they can.
“I felt that the most engaging part of the training camp was the last day. This was when we had children come in and we held the F4P Festival. Throughout this time I helped not only in the scoring of the games that were being played but I was paired up and gave a presentation to the parents of the children. Firstly I felt that giving the presentation gave me more confidence when speaking to an audience, but I also feel that having an audience that doesn’t understand everything that I was saying, made me more adaptable. I took away a sense of achievement after the day was done, not only because my partner and myself gave a good presentation but also that it made me realise that even though there is a language barrier, there are ways of still communicating and conveying the message.
“The most meaningful moment throughout the training camp was seeing how our methodology was being used on the final day by the Korean coaches. There were a couple problems here and there but it was really nice to see that they had understood the basics of the methodology and most were able to coach the children in the F4P style. To change your coaching methods almost overnight is a hard thing to achieve. The result was to see how quickly the children picked up on the values and also on the fair play rules throughout the tournament.
“The rest of our trip consisted of visiting the de-militarized zone (DMZ) zone as well as traveling to the south of South Korea to Busan and Gyeongju where our visits were more cultural and touristic.
“Our trip to the DMZ zone was probably the most meaningful moment throughout the whole trip due to several reasons. Firstly, due to the history behind the divide and how still to this day there are disturbances along the border, everything was very real. Even being able to see North Korea in the distance and knowing the consequences of what one troop movement could create was daunting. Secondly, growing up in Geneva, Switzerland I was taught about the conflict between the North and South but never to an extent where it meant a lot to me as I knew that I was always safe. However after attending some of the lectures during the training camp and then visiting the DMZ zone, it really hit me how real the conflict is and it really made me appreciate that I was able to grow up in a country that was shielded by any war induced conflict. As I was extremely moved by the whole trip it made me really appreciate where I’m from, where I grew up and the opportunities that I’ve had.
“Along our journey there were several great moments, however our trips to the temples in both Busan and Gyeongju will stay with me forever. Visiting these monuments that are so grand, beautiful and culturally significant was a great experience as it opened up new doors into a different world. Another moment was the street food we ate in Busan, it was simply delicious! We were taken to this area that had a lot of different street stalls, everything ranging from octopus to chicken, tea to fruit juices, but everything was so fresh and pure it was mouth-watering.
“My reason for applying to join the F4P team in Korea was foremost because even though I have been lucky to travel a lot, I had never visited South East Asia. It would allow me to do some work that I am really interested and passionate about whilst being able to experience a new country and a completely different culture. Not one place / country is perfect and every new place I visit, I am forced to reflect upon myself and my experience and it changes me slightly. On returning home to Geneva, I was much more calm compared to how I was before the trip. For me this is very important because I’ve now been able to realize what I need or what I need to get rid of to stay calm, feel at ease and be less anxious. I also think that as people, we are consistently changing due to our environments and experiences. To know one’s self completely can only push us to excel further.
“Not everything was perfect. Our group evaluation determined that we should have spent longer with the Korean coaches training them, longer with the children and possibly not during Monsoon when the weather is very hot, very wet and extremely humid! Also, personally I would have loved to stay an extra week visiting the rest of the country and then maybe doing some work in either a rural town, village or city. If the trip was to occur again I would definitely be interested in going again and would no doubt recommend it to anyone who is interested in teaching or using sport for development and peace.”