Newswise — American University’s School of International Service (SIS) and Football for Peace (FfP), an international sports diplomacy non-government organization headquartered in London, UK, with the support of the Maryland Sports Commission, are launching the first Football for Peace Center in the United States. The Peace Center will address pressing social and environmental challenges in the U.S. and around the world, focusing on youth empowerment, water prosperity, and societal advocacy.

“SIS has a long history of promoting leadership in peace and conflict resolution and addressing issues like poverty; geography; and water justice, including access to clean water, that contribute to conflict,” said SIS Dean Shannon Hader, MD, MPH. “Through this partnership and the growth of the Peace Center, we will host a variety of programs and events, reaffirming our dedication to creating positive change and 'waging peace' worldwide.”

The FfP Peace Center will serve as a platform for community service, global campaigns, advocacy, and youth engagement for marginalized communities in the Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia area, as well as for AU students, alumni, and partners, uniquely leveraging the power and popularity of both soccer and American football. As one of the new Center’s initiatives, SIS faculty and students will share their expertise in water politics and justice to support Football for Peace’s Rehydrate the Earth campaign, which will be formally launched later ahead of World Water Day 2024. The campaign is the world’s first global football-led water campaign.

"It’s great for Football for Peace U.S.A. to be partnering with such a prestigious university like American University and its School of International Service,” said Josh R. Norman, NFL Cornerback & founding board member of FfP USA. “Our heritage comes from professional sports, and we consider football, both soccer and American Football, to have a unique ability to reach far beyond ethnic, religious, social, or environmental differences. We hope to make a lot of a positive impact in the U.S.A.''

"I am so proud to come back to the States and work with some amazing partners after spending many years playing college soccer, which taught me positive values on and off the pitch. This partnership aligns perfectly with the upcoming World Cup; soccer touches five billion people and has the power to move masses,” said Kash Siddiqi, FfP co-founder and former professional soccer player. “Through this dynamic partnership, we're not just coming together; we're playing a pivotal role in promoting peace through soccer and football. Together, we're turning our shared commitment into advancing Sports Diplomacy Actions locally and internationally. The announcement of the inaugural Capitol Region Football for Peace Center is a significant step toward making this vision a reality."

The partnership will provide American University students the opportunity to become involved in sports diplomacy through FfP’s Most Valuable Peacemakers (MVP) Award, an initiative that honours young leaders, renowned athletes, and dignitaries for their efforts in tackling local and global issues and making a positive impact in their communities. Launched in 2015, the MVP Award allows youth to hear from professional athletes and offers soccer training opportunities and community service through soccer. This transformative experience empowers participants to cultivate their peace-building skills through empathy, compassion, and service to others.

The new Center will also create internship opportunities for students to participate in the Football for Peace projects with a global focus, including Peace Matches. The partnership will also aim to offer opportunities to AU faculty to lead and assist with initiatives to further AU’s mission of creating positive change around the world.

“Today’s announcement with American University is the first major step for Football for Peace, in an ongoing effort, to partner strategically with a distinguished academic institution while fostering and advocating the growth and mission of the organization in the United States,” said Terry Hasseltine, Executive Director, Maryland Sports Commission and President of the Sport & Entertainment Corporation of Maryland. “Working with a global initiative like Football for Peace, and now their Peace Center at American University, will elevate our long-term legacy footprint for the next generation here in Maryland, while creating the potential to expand regionally and nationally.”

The agreement between AU SIS and FfP was celebrated during a special event on the AU campus that focused on the impact of sports diplomacy and featured prominent speakers, including Brenda Abdelall, Assistant Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security; George Atallah, assistant executive director of external affairs for the NFL Players Association; Terry Hasseltine, President of the Maryland Sports Commission; Josh Norman, NFL former Washington Commanders' top cornerback; Oguchi Onyewu, former US Men's soccer national team Captain and Vice President of Sporting, United States Soccer Federation; tennis star Francis Tiafoe; and Brenden Varma, Deputy Director, UN Information Center.

About American University’s School of International Service

American University’s School of International Service (SIS) is a top-10 school of international affairs located in Washington, D.C. Since the school’s founding in 1957, we have answered President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s call to prepare students of international affairs to “wage peace.” SIS produces transformational research and prepares more than 3,000 graduate and undergraduate students for global careers in government, nonprofits, and business. Our students take advantage of Washington’s wealth of resources and professional opportunities—and an active international network of more than 25,000 alumni. They graduate prepared to combine knowledge and practice and to serve the global community as emerging leaders, waging peace and building understanding in our world.

About Football for Peace

Football for Peace (FfP) as an organization was inspired by the work of FIFA and Chilean legend Elias Figueroa. In 2013, Kashif Siddiqi, a former international soccer player and soccer diplomat launched Football for Peace internationally. FfP is a sports diplomacy NGO. Its mission is to advance sports diplomacy initiatives that address pressing social and environmental issues, leveraging the unique combination of football and soccer to serve communities in the United States and around the world.