18:35 GMT28 May 2020
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    Conservative candidate Iván Duque has been elected as the new president of Colombia, having campaigned on a platform of overhauling a peace agreement with left-wing rebels. Sputnik finds out how Tuesday's World Cup match has become part of the peace process.

    Mr. Duque was elected on Sunday, June 17, after winning 54 percent of the votes during a divisive campaign in which he had heavily criticized the deal current president Juan Manuel Santos had agreed with the FARC rebels.

    The 2016 deal, which won Santos the Nobel Peace Prize, guaranteed the rebels seats in Congress and gave them immunity from crimes committed during the conflict, which began in the late 1960s.

    The war led to 220,000 deaths and the displacement of more than five million people.

    ​Many victims of the war resent the agreement but the benefits of peace will be clear to see on Tuesday, June 19, at a special event in Antioquia province.

    Former members of FARC and their former enemies in the right-wing United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) will play in "The Great Soccer Match for Reconciliation" at Dabeiba.

    A joint FARC/AUC team will play two friendly matches with the reserves of two Colombian football league clubs, Atletico Nacional and Deportivo Independiente Medellin.

    Atletico Nacional are ironically the club who were owned in the 1980s by drug baron Pablo Escobar, who spent a fortune on making them Colombia's best team. 

    Early Start To Watch Match in Russia

    The players and former combatants will gather to watch Colombia take on Japan thousands of miles away in the Russian city of Saransk before playing matches between them.

    Because the game kicks off at 3pm local time, it will be 6am in Colombia which means all those involved will have to get up very early.

    The event "aims to strengthen the reconciliation that has been established" thanks to the Peace Agreement between the government and FARC. 

    Football has been promoted as a "space for reconciliation and dialog" and three soccer balls have been specially made by victims of the conflict and will be handed out to local children. 

    ​The idea for the event came from Félix Muñoz Lascarro, a FARC leader better known as "Pastor Alape".

    The awarding of soccer balls to local children and the presentation of three soccer balls made by victims will be the opening ceremony.

    Duque Beat Leftist Ex-Rebel

    Duque defeated a leftist ex-guerrilla Gustavo Petro, who had pledged to take on rich and vested interests in Colombia.

    "Eight million free Colombians taking a stand. There is no defeat here. For now we won't be the government," said Petro, accepting defeat gracefully.

    In his first speech after winning the election Mr. Duque, who was an abrasive character during the campaign, pledged to unite the country and struck a magnanimous note.

    "With humility and honour, I tell the Colombian people that I will give all my energies to unite our country. No more divisions. I will not govern with hatred," he told supporters.

    Mr. Duque wants to cut taxes and boost investment but critics say he plans to slash government jobs and the welfare system, hitting the poor.


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    rebels, president, election, 2018 FIFA World Cup, FARC, Ivan Duque, Juan Manuel Santos, Japan, Russia, Colombia
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