(PRAGUE, November 28th) — The 2023 International Ministerial Conference for the Freedom Of Religion or Belief Alliance witnessed a fusion of diplomacy and sportsmanship as Football for Peace (FfP), AC Sparta Praha Club, the U.S. Department of State, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic united for a remarkable Star-Studded Football for Peace Panel and Match in Prague. This groundbreaking collaboration showcased the unifying power of sports in building interreligious and cross-cultural communities.
The distinguished panel took place at the historic Czernin Palace, where influential figures from the world of football gathered to deliberate on the pivotal role that sports and faith play in bridging gaps across communities and impacting their sporting lives. The illustrious panel featured former international player and co-founder of Football for Peace, Kash Siddiqi; former Chairman of Bournemouth Football Club, Jeff Mostyn; former Professional Football Player and Sparta Prague Legend, Costa Nhamoinesu; former Tottenham, Liverpool FC and International Professional Football Player, Steven Caulker and former Everton F.C and Senegal national team Football Player, Oumar Niasse.
Following the insightful FfP Panel, the attention shifted to Prague’s iconic Great Strahov stadium for a highly anticipated match that promised to be a spectacle of camaraderie. Teams composed of individuals from diverse backgrounds, faiths, and professions converged on the football field to showcase the transformative power of sport in fostering mutual respect. The event received additional support from key delegation members, including the Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, Uzra Zeya, and H.E. Ambassador Bijan Sabet.
Accomplished international and local football players and figures, alongside ministers, AC Sparta Prague’s academy team players, former professional footballers, and stars like David Lafata and Borek Dockal, demonstrated the unifying power of sports in building interreligious and cross-cultural communities through their active participation in match.
Former AC Sparta Praha Captain Costa Nhamoinesu, said: “Football holds a profound significance as a unifying force, connecting and uniting diverse communities in the shared joy of the beautiful game. Football for Peace is doing great work to amplify the message of unity.”
Professional International Footballer Steven Caulker, said: “Football is a universal language understood by all, and we need to use it as a vehicle to create change in support of athletes, young people and communities. Big shoutout to Football for Peace for doing awesome work, spreading unity and harmony through the beautiful game!”
U.S. Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights Uzra Zeya, said: “I have learned that success in diplomacy is not all that different from the playing field – it requires training, discipline, good judgement, and teamwork. Merging these two worlds is only fitting; in fact, sports diplomacy is an effective way to bring people together and build mutual understanding,cooperation, and unity. Thank you to our hosts, the Czech MFA, and to our partners – Football for Peace and Sparta Prague.”
President and Co Founder of Football for Peace Kash Siddiqi said: “I extend my sincere appreciation to all participants and collaborators, especially the Czech MFA, AC Sparta Praha, and the U.S. State Department, for joining forces to amplify this crucial message and occasion. The collaborative efforts underscore the significance of sports diplomacy in advancing the cause of religious freedom, showcasing how partnerships between esteemed entities can catalyse positive change on a global scale. Together, we have laid the groundwork for future initiatives that leverage the unifying force of football to foster harmony and champion the vital cause of religious freedom worldwide.”
U.S. Ambassador At Large Rashad Hussain said: “We have to continue planting the seeds for the long run. There are so many important ways in which we are doing that this week—through interfaith and multi-faith work, as well as the people-to-people connections we are building. We saw that in a very real way on the football pitch, where Football for Peace performed an incredible display.When you are cheering for your team, you are not cheering for people of just one ethnic, racial, or religious background; you are cheering for your team. And that’s powerful. Athletes have such an important and incredible platform, and many of you are using it in impactful ways. I encourage you to use that platform to bring people together because it’s incredible what sports have the ability to do”
Ambassador Rudolf Hykl said: “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic was delighted to host the Ministerial Conference on Freedom of Religion or Belief, of which the panel and the exhibition on the role of football in creating culture of religious tolerance and respect was an important part. Thanks go to all co-organisers of the event, most importantly to the leading Czech football club AC Sparta Praha, who was instrumental in organising and staging the successful sporting event.”