Soccer event to lead highlight reel of global peace meeting in Daejeon

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Soccer event to lead highlight reel of global peace meeting in Daejeon

The World Cup may be over, but international soccer is on its way back to the Daejeon World Cup Stadium.

Amateur players from 12 countries, including the United States, Korea and Germany, will lace up their shoes to play in a four-day tournament in Daejeon this month. The matches run from Aug. 14 to Aug. 17, with seven matches to be played at Daejon's World Cup pitch.

The Global Association of Culture and Peace, an international organization promoting cultural understanding and celebration, is putting on the competition.

There won't be any Ronaldos or Beckhams on the field this time around, but that doesn't mean an end to high quality soccer. With more than 100,000 members worldwide, the association has quite a pool of soccer players to choose from. Korea's team, for instance, consists almost entirely of former professional players that now play in a Sunday league run by the global group.

Nor will the fans be second rate. About 40,000 members of the association are expected to come down for the final two matches, the first of which begins at 4:50 p.m. that Saturday, to cheer and sing their teams to victory. Unlike the World Cup, however, there won't be any scalpers selling tickets outside; entrance is free and everyone is invited.

This tournament is the main event of the association's annual conference, and soccer has been an integral part of the organization since it began in 1994. It offers a way for people of different tongues to interact without having to rely on language, said Lina Lim, a volunteer director with the group. "We hope that through soccer there will be peace, that we can be united as one. That is the main goal."

But soccer isn't the only thing the association will focus on during the second week of August. It will also hold sightseeing tours, cheering festivals and dance performances and introduce its international visitors to the local music. The group's peace conference, bringing together its members from around the world, is in step with its mission -- to exchange cultural experiences and promote harmony among people of different nationalities.

High school students and businessmen, men and women, athletes and artists are all part of the organization. More than 50,000 of its members live in Korea, 10,000 of them in Seoul. And when they aren't flying into Daejeon for a global extravaganza, they're participating in other cultural events while making friends. During the World Cup, for instance, the association arranged free excursions or dinner parties for foreign visitors every day, sometimes in their member's own homes. The Korean members volunteered hour after hour to get to know soccer's most dedicated fans and share in their experience here.

"Making friends is the best way to learn about different cultures," Ms. Lim said. And soccer has proven to be a great way to make friends.

Although the global association is based in Korea, this is the first time that the conference will be held here. For more information, visit: www.gacpkorea.org.

by Daniela SantaMaria

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