Sports — 22 December 2018 — by Rowland A. Parks
In the Gap Institute kicks off “Football for Life” at Marion Jones Sports Complex

BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Dec. 20, 2018– On Friday, December 14, an international, friendly football match was played at the Marion Jones Sports Complex between Belize Baby Jaguars (National Under 17 team) and Atleticos Arriga, an under 17 team from Guatemala City.

The Belize Baby Jaguars won the match by a score of two-nil with the goals scored by Jahlin Pelayo and Elton Reneau.

This was the first of a planned three-match series between Belize and Guatemala that comes through an organization known as the “In the Gap Institute,” which kicked off its program called “Football for Life Peace Match” with its first friendly match.

In the Gap Institute was formed two years ago by Maria Zabaneh, who is its president. Zabaneh is a former Chairperson of the Roman Catholic Schools Bishop’s Commission.

We asked Zabaneh what inspired her to form In the Gap Institute.

“It is an institute for peace and democracy, and the aim is to promote peace and democracy among young people. It also has the objective of imparting “spiritual and moral values to the young people it caters for,” Zabaneh told us.

“We are engaged in the work of social transformation,” Zabaneh explained.  “We work a lot with young people, and we want to form them morally and spiritually.”

Zabaneh said Belize has a demographic bonus of young people, and she feels that we have to come together to steer those energies.

“Fifty percent of our people are under 25 years of age, and that is good for national development, if we work,” Zabaneh said.  “If we don’t work, we will end up with the challenges that we are facing today.”

Zabaneh explained that Guatemala has invited the Belize team to a match in January that will be played in Guatemala City.

The third and final game will be played at the Arenal field.  Zabaneh said half of the field is located in Belize and the other half is in Guatemala.

In her address at the opening of the match, Zabaneh extended special thanks to the ambassadors of both Belize and Guatemala, Ambassador Alexis Rosado and Ambassador George De La Ranoche, “whose offices,” she said, “facilitated and made” the events possible.

“Sports inspire young generations throughout the world.  Our two nations are no different,” Zabaneh told the gathering.  “This initiative today will lead towards the birth of a Football Academy for Peace in Belize.  The goal of this Academy is to encourage our youth to become moral and spiritual leaders, true peace ambassadors, using sports as a unifying force…”

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