Friday, 5 December 2008

The Peace and Sport Image of the Year Award: Turkey and Armenia

Peace and Sport Organization (Organisation pour la Paix et le Sport) - press release:

This distinction for the best image of fraternization through sport was awarded for a photograph of the historic handshake between the President of the Republic of Turkey Abdullah Gül and the President of Armenia, Serge Sarkissian, during the qualifying match for the Football World Cup between Turkey and Armenia. Thanks to football, this moment marked the end of nearly two decades of diplomatic silence.

H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco presented the award jointly to Armen Grigorian, Armenian Minister of Youth and Sport, and to Mahmut Özgener, President of the Turkish Football Federation, who exchanged long greetings on stage, creating a moment of intense emotion amongst spectators.

Joel Bouzou and David Tomatis, CEO of Sportel, acclaimed the photograph as “a symbol of hope for two communities whose history has been marked by hostility and pain.”

In a letter sent to Peace and Sport, the Armenian President Mr Sarkissian proclaimed himself “deeply moved to hear the Grand Jury’s decision to attribute the Peace and Sport Image of the Year Award to his handshake with Turkish President Mr Gül.” He added that he was convinced that “Sport is one of the best ways to overcome differences between nations”.

*photo - via Public Radio of Armenia

1 comment:

artmika said...

FIFA: Fair Play for Armenia, Turkey

The FIFA Fair Play Award for 2008 has gone to the Football Associations of Armenia and Turkey for their part in encouraging dialogue between two countries which otherwise do not have any form of diplomatic relationship.

On 6 September 2008, the President of Turkey, Abdula Gul, spent eight hours in Yerevan, on the invitation of Armenian President Serzh Sargsian, in order to attend the two countries' encounter in a qualifier for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose country was holding the EU Presidency at the time, dubbed the meeting a "historic and brave initiative". The visit was also heartily applauded by the international press, while 70 per cent of the Turkish public expressed their approval in opinion polls.

As a result, sport, and more specifically football, has helped alleviate a situation where traditional diplomacy had failed since 1991, the year Armenia gained independence. Indeed, President Gul's trip was backed by nearly two-thirds of the Turkish population, according to a poll carried out by the research centre MetroPOLL, who found that six out of ten members of the Turkish public were in favour of re-establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries.

As for the match itself, 10,000 fans were in the stands to witness this historic encounter first-hand. Visitors Turkey came through to win the game 2-0, but more importantly the match passed by without crowd trouble.

The Turkish President announced that he did not wish the dispute between the two nations to be part of his legacy for future generations. President Gul also invited his Armenian counterpart to attend the FIFA World Cup qualifying match between the two sides in Istanbul on 14 October 2009.

It is also worth noting that two other meetings between nations that do not currently enjoy diplomatic relations took place on 6 September 2008, both of which were also part of the South Africa 2010 preliminary phase. These were Cuba-United States in the North, Central America and Caribbean Zone and Sudan-Chad in the African Zone, two further examples of how decisive a diplomatic role football can play.

The award was presented by UEFA President and FIFA Executive Committee member Michel Platini and his fellow FIFA Executive Committee member Senes Erzik.