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EL ESPECTADOR

New FARC Soccer Club Aims To Ease Colombian Guerrillas Into Society

A Colombian NGO is hoping football could turn former communist guerrillas into peaceful citizens — and maybe even sporting stars.

FARC guerrillas playing soccer in El Diamante, Colombia
FARC guerrillas playing soccer in El Diamante, Colombia
José David Escobar Moreno

BOGOTÁ — From "terror group" to soccer team. The FARC or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the communist guerrillas disbanding in a national peace deal, will start a soccer club as part of a social rehabilitation process that includes reconciliation with civilian victims of Colombia's decades-long civil war.

The club, to be called La Paz FC (Peace Football Club), will have three teams including former FARC guerrillas, perhaps members of other, unspecified militias and civilians from communities that suffered in the civil war. The idea emerged from conversations between the FARC and a local NGO, the Peace and Football Foundation (Fundación Futbol y Paz), and will proceed as part of the government peace plan.

The Foundation's director, Félix Mora Ortiz, says FARC chiefs including its supreme leader, Rodrigo Londoño, are keen on the idea, though the president of the country's leagues authority, Jorge Perdomo, has qualified the FARC's hopes to have their teams play as professional second division members as a longshot in the immediate future.

The idea is to turn gunmen into sportsmen, but also help reconcile them with the victims of political violence. "We want that universe of eight million victims left by Colombia's armed conflict to have sporting representation through La Paz FC," Mora says.

He is talking to municipal authorities in Apulo, west of Bogotá, so the teams can play regularly in its recently opened La Paz stadium. The hope is that competition will be fierce, but with that spirit of "fair play" that makes sporting combat the best alternative to the real thing.

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Society

How India’s Women Are Fighting Air Pollution — And The Patriarchy

India is one of the world's worst countries for air pollution, with women more likely to be affected by the problem than men. Now, experts and activists are fighting to reframe pollution as a gendered health crisis.

A woman walking through dense fog in New Delhi

*Saumya Kalia

MUMBAI In New Delhi, a city that has topped urban air-pollution charts in recent years, Shakuntala describes a discomfort that has become too familiar. Surrounded by bricks and austere buildings, she tells an interviewer: "The eyes burn and it becomes difficult to breathe". She is referring to the noxious fumes she routinely breathes as a construction worker.

Like Shakuntala, women’s experiences of polluted air fill every corner of their lives – inside homes, in parks and markets, on the way to work. Ambient air in most districts in India has never been worse than it is today. As many as 1.67 million people in the country die prematurely due to polluted air. It is India’s second largest health risk after malnutrition.

This risk of exposure to air pollution is compounded for women. Their experiences of toxic air are more frequent and often more hazardous. Yet “policies around air quality have not yet adequately taken into account gender or other factors that might influence people’s health,” Pallavi Pant, a senior scientist at the Health Effects Institute, a nonprofit in the U.S., told The Wire Science.

“It’s unacceptable that the biggest burden [rests on] those who can least bear it,” Sherebanu Frosh, an activist, added. People like her are building a unique resistance within India.

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