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Cheers for soccer ring across the Himalayan hillsides

India, September 29, 2010

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Ruben Das Pradhan/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Photo: Ruben Das Pradhan/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Ruben Das Pradhan/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Villages from Darjeeling district's picturesque Lingten Valley came together to create a new soccer field, which took two months of hard work to complete. Photo: Ruben Das Pradhan/Mercy Corps
  • 
  <span class="field-credit">
    Ruben Das Pradhan/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Two sides face off in the soccer tournament in the village of Upper Kolbong. Photo: Ruben Das Pradhan/Mercy Corps

The kickoff for this year's One Day One Goal soccer tournament in northeastern India took place on a freshly-developed playing field in the village of Upper Kolbong. This playfield can currently accommodate two teams at a time, playing seven players to a side. A total of 16 teams participated in this one-day tournament, out of which eight teams included only players under the age of fifteen years and the other eight teams were over the age of fifteen.

In all, 110 participants zealously participated in the soccer tournament, which was witnessed by more than 500 community members from the beautiful Lingten Valley in India's famous Darjeeling district.

The significance of this year’s One Day One Goal tournament was that it was jointly organized by Mercy Corps' Community Health and Advancement Initiative (CHAI) and the youth community action groups (CAG) of six CHAI communities. This was the first time that the communities of the Lingten Valley came together to host a soccer tournament, and they worked very hard for more than two months to develop the playing field to host such a big event.

The tournament started with a welcome speech by the local CAG and a brief outline on the importance of World Peace Day. Participating players from individual teams, belonging to different communities, were mixed together and new teams were formed — much to the surprise and astonishment of the footballers. Players were initially concerned as to how their newly-formed teams would perform and whether their teamwork would be effective.

As play progressed, the players discovered that initially they struggled but, with each match, their teamwork and spirit progressed. In the process, new friends were discovered, the soccer skills of fellow teammates were appreciated and barriers between communities were broken.

The closing ceremony of One Day One Goal tournament saw the prize distribution, which was managed and participated by the senior CAG members and some prominent citizens of the Lingten Valley.

Antup Lepcha, a devoted football player from the community of Malatang, said: "This is the first time that I played in the preliminary match and the finals of a soccer match on World Peace Day. I have made new friends and we have decided to stay in regular contact by playing more friendly matches between our teams."