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Ball State Communication Center Article:

Soccer could improve relations between U.S., Jordan

Just like pingpong opened the door to China in the early 1970s, Ball State University faculty believe soccer may be the way to improve relations between the United States and Jordan.

Ball State will use a $212,000 grant from the U.S. State Department to support Soccer for Peace and Understanding in Jordan, a two-year program designed to strengthen ties between the two countries. An American delegation will visit Jordan in January and then host Jordanian youth soccer coaches in 2012. The American group will then visit the Middle Eastern nation in 2013.

The program could improve American-Jordanian relations because soccer is the most popular sport in that Middle Eastern nation, allowing coaches and players from the two countries to interact, said Lindsey Blom, a Ball State physical education professor and licensed soccer coach.

"Despite close, bilateral relations at the governmental level, Jordanians and Americans do not always view each other's nations in the most positive light," said Blom, co-author of the book, "Survival Guide for Coaching Youth Soccer."

"Because nothing is closer to the Jordanian heart and psyche than soccer, linking Americans and Jordanians through the world's most popular sport is a useful, indirect way to teach peacemaking and conflict resolution," she said. "This will not only create individual friendships but also improve coaching proficiency in both nations."

Ball State's partners on campus include the Center for and Conflict Studies, the Center for International Development, and the Social Science Research Center.These groups will work in conjunction with Indiana Soccer and The Peace Learning Center of Indianapolis in partnership with Leaders of Tomorrow, the Princess Basma Youth Resource Centre and the Jordan Football Association.

The project calls for American youth soccer coaches traveling to Jordan to conduct coaching clinics and assist coaches in running clinics for their youth athletes in the cities of Amman, Ajloun and Zarqa.

Jordanian coaches will visit Indiana for a 14-day cultural sport and peace exchange in May. The American delegation will return to Jordan in early 2013 to conduct another round of coach and athlete clinics.

By delivering clinics to three of Jordan's largest population centers, Ball State will be able to reach a diverse population of male and female recreational coaches and athletes. The team plans to involve 100-150 Jordanian coaches, more than 300 Jordanian youth athletes, 50-75 Indiana coaches and more than 50 Indiana youth athletes.

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