The sport of soccer, or football as it is known to the rest of the world, is meant to be played for fun or for competitive purposes. It is a sport that has no other meaning or purpose other than putting a round object between two posts. But what if you had to play soccer in order to protect young children from joining a terrorist group?

In Nigeria, the army is turning to soccer to help fight Boko Haram, Nigeria’s Islamist terrorist group. According to Quartz Media and the Nigerian newspaper “Punch,” the Nigerian army has put together a soccer tournament in Sambisa forest. The whole point of this tournament is to prevent potential child soldiers from joining the terrorist group. Boko Haram radicalizes and recruits young children to help them fight against the government.

According to Quartz Media, the tournament kicked off in October and will continue until the end of the year. The purpose of the tournament is to convince the youths of Nigeria to engage in a lifestyle opposite that of Boko Haram. According to the Maneland, the tournament is supposed to engage and win the hearts of youths, while fostering civil cooperation.

According to BBC News, Boko Haram does not want people to engage in any political or social activity associated with western society. The terrorist group has been an issue in Nigeria for the past two years.

Soccer is considered to be one of Nigeria’s favorite pastimes. According to the LiveStrong Foundation, as well as their official website, the Nigerian Football Federation has been around since 1945. Nigeria won bronze medals in the 1976 and 1978 African Cup of Nations. The Super Eagles have also recently become the first African team to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

In this particular case, it is safe to say that the sport of soccer could be the matter of life or death for the youth of Nigeria. Here in the United States, it is much different. Here, we play soccer because we love it and because we have the opportunity to do so. There is no other reason.

As a country, we are lucky to be free to play whatever sport we wish and not have certain groups of people telling us we can’t. Nigeria, a country known for its love of soccer, is using soccer as a tool, not as a pastime.

Soccer is referred to as “the beautiful game” for a reason. Not every sport is popular all over the world; however, soccer is. It can break down any barrier from race to language.  It has the power to heal and save people, just as it is being used in Nigeria. Furthermore, it has the ability to allow us to forget everything because anyone, rich or poor, from anywhere, can play the game. In general, sports can be viewed as something bigger, something that can unite us all. It is important to always understand the bigger picture in life, especially when it comes to sports.