The Use of Football and Other Sports for Peace-Building in Colombia and Nothern Ireland

Alexander Cárdenas

Original Language



The use of sport to deal with a variety of social challenges, a strategy known as “sport for development and peace” (SDP), is currently on the rise. Despite the recent increase in research in this field, the scholarly literature is characterized by a lack of inter-regional studies that analyze the phenomenon of SDP beyond Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East, just as it largely focuses on the perspectives of the beneficiaries of such programs. This study explores the use of football and other sports for peace-building in Colombia and Northern Ireland from the standpoint of the staff involved in the design, support, promotion and implementation of sport for development and peace initiatives (SDP staff); it also explores the SDP sector in these societies affected by divisiveness and conflict. This study adopts a qualitative research approach; it uses collective case studies as the research methodology and triangulation as the data-collection method. The research strategy explores the perceptions, viewpoints and interactions of SDP staff in Colombia and Northern Ireland in terms of the opportunities and challenges that come with the use of football and other sports for social cohesion, and the particular role played by this staff within the specific context of the conflict within which they operate.
By using an analytical framework that incorporates three dimensions – staff, programs and the SDP sector – this study found similarities and differences, revealing that the dynamics of the conflicts in Colombia and Northern Ireland have played an important role in shaping the perceptions of the SDP staff with regard to the social function of sport, as well as in the organization of the programs and the development of specific methodologies which enhance the qualities of sport as a tool of peace. In Northern Ireland, the SDP sector shows a satisfactory degree of integration, although there is a noticeable lack of a clear policy on sport for peace, while in Colombia, where SDP is not yet a real field, recent events point to future opportunities to create policies on the social dimension of sport. A series of lessons were drawn from both case studies with regard to the phenomenon of SDP which could benefit other divided societies where this kind of intervention is carried out.

Keywords: Peace.

ISSN: 2014-0983

Published: July 01, 2017

Date read: ay 19, 2015