Former Afghanistan national women’s team captain, Khalida Popal, has been named the Champion of the Year at the 2017 Peace and Sport Awards, following her lifelong journey to use sport as a tool for peace in her war-torn home nation.
Defying Taliban law at the age of 16 in order to play football with her female friends at school, Popal became a figurehead for women’s sport in Afghanistan, inspiring girls around the country to find enjoyment and escapism through sport.
Just 12 years on, from her act of defiance, women’s sport in Afghanistan is flourishing. With professional leagues now common place, Popal has changed the lives of countless women throughout the conflicted nation.
Elsewhere, FC Barcelona’s Foundation was named Foundation of the Year for their refugee programme, which intervened and helped to save lives in Greece, Italy and Lebanon, while the World Badminton Federation (WBF) took home Federation of the Year for their Shuttle Time Connect initiative, which created a sporting and cultural exchange between children in Asia and Australia.
A full list of winners can be found below.
Discussing the Awards, Peace and Sport Founder and President, Joël Bouzou said:
“What a special evening, celebrating all those who have made such a huge contribution to the peace-through-sport movement over the past year. We have recognised some inspiration winners here tonight, but really everyone who has helped to change a life is a winner. This is a collaborative effort, and together we must move forward as one and achieve our goals.
“I also would like to congratulate Khalida Popal. Her story is truly an inspirational one, and she has been on an incredible journey to fight for what she believes in. She is a true testament of the power of sport for peace.”
Before the announcement of the Awards, Didier Drogba delivered a speech to the delegation about his work on social causes, before a special session took place that saw Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus take to the stage to discuss the Yunus Centre’s new partnership with Peace and Sport and the power of sport and social business to foster social change.
The partnership, announced on day one of the Forum, will see Peace and Sport set up a Social Business Fund in Monaco, which will raise money to then be invested in entrepreneurs often too poor to afford a bank loan.
Speaking at the special session, Professor Muhammad Yunus said:
“The sports world can be a part of true change around the world. Young people make change, and the impact that athletes can have on the mind of all young people is incredible. Athletes are so precious to young people, they are their idols, so athletes can play a huge role in change.
“By definition, athletes push boundaries, they create new success. They drive change. I am so happy to be here among all of these Champions, and I thank Mr Bouzou for inviting me to become a part of Peace and Sport.”
Elsewhere during day two of the 2017 Peace and Sport International Forum, Common Goal co-founder Thomas Preiss joined Grameen Creative Lab managing director Hans Reitz to discuss the way in which businesses can invest in sports-based solutions for social good, before World Cup winning French footballer Lillian Thuram spoke a alongside representatives of both UNHCR and UNESCO entitled Social innovation in challenging times.
On top of this, a landmark diplomatic kickboxing event took place, where Russia’s Alena Bashmakova and Aleksandr Popov fought Ukraine’s Olha Dudchenko and Ivan Maidannyk respectively, once more highlighting the unifying power of sport.
The full list of winners is as follows:
In Memory of Guo Chan, coup de coeur by Champions for Peace : Maria Guedez
Diplomatic Action of the Year: Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
NGO of the Year: HODI
Federation of the Year: World Badminton Federation (WBF)
Corporate Social Responsibility initiative of the Year: GIZ
Sport Simple Programme of the Year: Welcome to Yorkshire
Event of the Year: Ojo x Ojo Productions for El Partido de la historia
April6 Initiative of the Year: Brussels Play 4 Peace
Foundation of the Year: FC Barcelona Foundation
Special Jury Prize: Union Nationale de Footballeurs Professionels (UNFP)
Champion of the Year: Khalida Popal
For further downloadable images from throughout the 2017 Peace and Sport International Forum, please use the following link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/136481143@N07/
A link to the downloadable VNR of the diplomatic kickboxing event can be found here: