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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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