In a historic event aimed at building peace in Colombia, former guerrilla fighters, paramilitaries, security forces, artists and professional football players met to watch their national team's first match at the 2018 World Cup and play a friendly game with citizens.
While the game, which ended in a 2-1 loss for Colombia, didn't produce the desired result for fans, peace activists and citizens are hoping the event, which took place in Llano Grande, a part of the Dabeiba municipality, would build lasting relationships.
Former enemies Ernesto Baez de la Serna, the leader of the now demobilized United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), and Baez de la Serna, a political leader of the FARC Pastor Alape, reportedly hugged each other when celebrating Juan Fernando Quintero's goal.
“The hug means we all fit in Colombia, the hug means Colombia is only one party: peace,” Pastor Alape, now one of the leaders of the Common Alternative Revolutionary Force, told Caracol Noticias while wearing a national team jersey.
“The reconciliation 'world cup' was played in Antioquia | Community, ex-fighters of FARC, AUC (United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia), security forces, youth of the commune 13 of Medellin and legends from the National Athletic and the DIM (Independent Sporting Medellin) take part in the tournament for reconciliation on the Llano Grande de Dabeiba fields.”
“We're now sharing with the ones we used to fight, with the ones that were our enemies and now are our family,” said Edwin Duarte, a young ex-FARC fighter.
The event took place on Monday and Tuesday and also saw citizens participate along with members of a United Nations delegation, which celebrated the peace efforts and its fruits.
The event was dubbed “Golpe de Estadio 2” (a wordplay that can be translated as “Coup d'Stadium 2”), in reference to the film by Colombian director Sergio Cabrera, in which guerrilla fighters and security forces agreed to a truce and watched the 1994 World Cup match between Colombia and Argentina on the only working television in the community.
“Last night at the Territorial Space for Training and Reintegration (ETCR) in Llano Grande in Dabeiba, Antioquia, the movie Golpe de Estadio and the director Sergio Cabrera united the community, victims, security forces and former fighters of the FARC, AUC and ELN in #FootballAndReconciliation”
“This is a space to share between security forces, former fighters, community members, affected persons by the violence, all united to improve our country,” said Carlos Murillo, a police officer.
Trainer Victor Luna, who played for the Atletico Nacional and America de Cali in his youth, said the event was an excellent example for the younger generations.
“The people I bought are from the Commune 13, from Medellin, and among them are two boys whose parents were killed and we listened to them... understanding this as part of the human condition is the best way to mourn. Because the other way is still a manifestation of violence and we need to stop with that,” said Luna.
During the event, Ernesto Baez, born Ivan Roberto Duque Gaviria, asked Colombia's president-elect, to recognize the achievements of the peace process and the agreement signed by the FARC and the government.
He also asked Alape, the ex-leader of the National Liberation Army (ELN) Alejandro Torres and the spokeswoman of the Victims National Assembly Yolanda Perea to form a solidarity front in defense of the agreements.
The president-elect Ivan Duque has promised to “review” the peace accords, and many fear his policies may hamper the process as his political mentor, Alvaro Uribe, leans towards more violent solutions.
Baez de la Serna, who is an anti-communist but took his last name from Ernesto “Che” Guevara, said it's necessary to “surround the peace process with support, so the president understands that peace is mandatory.”
“We have to show the incoming government that this effort to leave the weapons can't be wasted. It's challenging to leave the weapons in Colombia,” said Baez, adding that the president needs to understand citizens don't want more violence and that he should assume his responsibility with the people.
Ernesto Baez de la Serna was one of the most prominent leaders of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, a paramilitary group that demobilized in 2003 and was one of the FARC's fiercest rivals.