Soccer tournament helps celebrate diversity


The Appalachian Online

Tommy Culkin

Appalachian State will hold the 10th annual People of the Planet soccer tournament on April 9 as part of its Diversity Celebration.

The tournament’s mission statement is to bring together students and community members from around the world through soccer.

“Soccer is something that brings together all countries, not considering skin color, religion or language,” Rahman Tashakkori, the event’s founder, said. “That’s why I thought [soccer] would be a good way of bringing all those people together.”

Last year, 42 countries participated in the tournament. According to Tashakkori, typically more than half the players are representing other countries.

“After the tournament, we honor all the countries that participated and the people from those countries, sort of like a little mini Olympics,” Tashakkori said.

Jakob Sjostrand, a graduate student who has participated in the People of the Planet tournament every year since its inception, said the tournament has been an educational experience for him.

“I’ve gotten the opportunity to learn about other cultures and ways of life that I wouldn’t have had otherwise,” Sjostrand said. “Also, It’s allowed me to interact with the exchange student community and hear about their experiences.”

Cindy Wallace, the vice chancellor of student development, said it is imperative for people to learn more about other cultures.

“We should always strive to be open to people who think differently than you do, live differently than you do, and I think that’s the only way we gain understanding and tolerance,” Wallace said. “Ignorance breeds intolerance, and intolerance breeds hate.”

Tashakkori said he got the idea of a soccer tournament to celebrate diversity because many early initiatives weren’t entirely inclusive.

“In the early 2000’s there were many efforts to celebrate diversity, but many of them were hosted by churches, which immediately discourages people from other religions,” Tashakkori said. “I asked myself what could bring people together of any religion or any background, and without hesitation the answer is sports, and especially soccer.”

The tournament has grown tremendously over its history. In its first year, there was no youth component and there were only four teams made up of Appalachian State students. In the following years, children’s teams were added, and the Appalachian State men’s and women’s soccer teams became involved as referees and coaches for the youth games.

Last year, approximately 240 children and 80 Appalachian State students participated.

Wallace said the event has growth is due to Tashakkori’s dedication.

“Rahman is one of the most committed, remarkable faculty members on our campus,” Wallace said. “He is a giver, a creator and he’s always loved soccer. He does about 99 percent of the work for the event.”

The event is free, and people can register online at

The teams are divided up by age, which range from six and under to college.

Despite the fact the event is referred to as a tournament, Tashakkori said the format is free and informal.

“The emphasis really isn’t on winning,” Tashakkori said. “It’s on creating friendships.”

Story by Tommy Culkin, Senior News Reporter