#WorldCupofPeace: Secure a ceasefire in Syria before the Russia World Cup

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We are Syrians. We are refugees. We are footballers.

The media is full of news about our country and the war that has engulfed it for more than 7 long years. As Syrians, we have seen our friends, neighbors and families suffer while the world watched on.

The war has destroyed a peaceful way of life for millions of civilians. Hundreds of thousands have been killed and millions have been forced to flee, as we were, with their lives uprooted. Football was our way of life, but the war destroyed football clubs and stadiums and dispersed Syria's football players across the world. We did not want to engage in killing our Syrian brothers and sisters, or to become victims of violence ourselves, so we chose to flee the country.

But for players who managed to leave Syria, very few have had access to practice fields, documentation and other resources necessary to keep playing football. Our own team continues to play every Sunday, as an expression of our love for the sport and for the Syrians who have lost the opportunity to play. For us, football has been a pillar of stability, offering us camaraderie, joy and laughter even in the darkest days.

We have seen the unique power of sport to bring people together and inspire the values of respect, integrity and unity. In 1978, the United Nations declared that sport was a “fundamental right for all.” Yet with just over a month until the FIFA World Cup, our friends and family still in Syria, and many others displaced by the war, are unable to play sport or watch the World Cup in safety. They will be preoccupied with their daily struggle to survive amidst bombs and besiegement.

Since the Christmas truce of 1914, where soldiers played football between the trenches, sport has proven to be a powerful catalyst for peace. This summer, as the football community heads to Russia, it could be one again.

We believe that the World Cup should be harnessed as a force for good in our world. That is why we are calling on all world leaders to urge President Putin, the world cup host, to declare a ceasefire in Syria, and bring greater peace and security to Syrians ahead of the opening ceremony on June 14th.

For the sake of the football community, for the sake of the values of sport and, most importantly, for the sake of the millions of Syrians affected by the war, we need a World Cup of Peace