In Punjab, people speak the same language, Punjabi, but in the beginning colleagues always asked me to call the other organisation to ask for something. They were visibly uncomfortable calling each other; this possibility simply didn't exist in their minds. I then organised a conference call for all of us via Skype – dropping out eventually, because without me they could talk in their native language, while with me they always had to speak English.

When I think of sports in India and Pakistan, I think of cricket rather than football. Why didn't you decide to do a cricket project?

Grover: You're right of course: compared to football, cricket is much more important in India and Pakistan; it's the national sport. But cricket is very emotionally charged. When India and Pakistan play cricket against each other, it's always a huge "highlight" with a lot of national symbolism.

Football match in Rurka Kalan, India (photo: YFC Rurka Kalan)
Clifton Grover, founder of "Kick for Tolerance": “thanks to street football, they now have something in common that they identify with, because they're all street footballers, regardless which country they live in”

Moreover, in the region cricket is a men's sport, almost a macho sport. And the technical equipment is more complicated than in football, where you just have to throw a ball in the air and off you go. For all these reasons, cricket wouldn't have been as good as football. Of course football also has negative associations: it has an equally commercialised market and releases a lot of energy that isn't always positive.

Personally, I associate football with violent fans and emotions boiling over ...

Grover: Yes and with winning and losing and defeating the opponent. For example, our children love imitating the winner pose. You don't have to think that's good.

How do you deal with such situations?

Grover: All this winning and being defeated, violence, national pride and macho behaviour has no place in street football, or is deliberately exposed and scrutinised there. On our approach, everyone is a winner in the end. Sounds boring to some? Well, it's not – quite the contrary.

Interview conducted by Siri Gögelmann

© ifa | Institut fur Auslandsbeziehungen e.V.

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