United for Tripoli : Football tournament

Sports for Reconciliation: Bridging Divides between Former Fighters and the Lebanese Armed Forces 

Tripoli has long grappled with conflict, social unrest, and insecurity within its communities, particularly in Jabal Mohsen and Beb El Tebbeneh. Furthermore, socio-economic instability, gang activity, drug use, and the widespread presence of illegal weapons have intensified these challenges. This situation often places the Lebanese Army, already operating with limited resources, and continuously on the brink of conflict with these communities.

MARCH’s projects’ focused on repairing and mending relations between the communities of Jabal Mohsen and Beb El Tebbeneh and the Lebanese Army, as well as fostering reconciliation among the communities themselves. As part of its distinctive Sports for Reconciliation initiatives, MARCH organized a joint football tournament aimed to mitigate divisions and tensions by uniting army personnel and at-risk youth in a spirit of unity and camaraderie.

The Tournament

From the 19th to the 27th of July 2023, the tournament brought together 20 members of the Lebanese Armed Forces’ 12th brigade and 41 at-risk youth from Tripoli’s Jabal Mohsen and Beb el Tebbeneh neighborhoods. Additionally, around 70 community members and 60 army personnel participated in or attended the event with the aim of celebrating the unity and spirit of the youth and army’s collaboration. 

Breaking Barriers through capacity building

Prior to the tournament, participants underwent workshops focusing on cultural sensitivity, communication skills, and conflict resolution. These sessions aimed to equip participants with the tools necessary to engage in constructive dialogue and overcome long standing barriers between communities and the army.

Many of the youth had never interacted with army personnel before, and did not even accept to be part of the initiative at first, viewing them as adversaries. Through facilitated discussions and storytelling sessions, the youth shared personal experiences, fostering empathy and recognizing commonalities that transcended divides.

Closing Ceremony

The tournament culminated in a closing ceremony attended by prominent figures, including the General Coordinator of MARCH, Lea Baroudi, and General Major Fadi Bou Haidar, commander of the 12th brigade. Trophies and medals were awarded to recognize the youths’ achievements and contributions to fostering unity and dialogue.

In conclusion, the United for Tripoli Football Tournament 2023 demonstrated the power of sport and dialogue in bridging divides and fostering understanding among communities long divided by conflict. By bringing together army personnel and at-risk youth, this initiative laid the groundwork for ongoing collaboration, reconciliation and mitigating long standing tensions in Tripoli.