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From Obama to those soulless PSV fans

On Barack Obama's historic visit to Cuba, his program will include a baseball game in Havana. Sport providing some common ground between two countries so close yet worlds apart. That gesture reminds me of the era of 'Ping-Pong diplomacy' at the beginning of the 70's. The U.S. ping-pong team was invited to China to take part in some exhibition games, a first public hint of the thaw in relations between the two countries. That happened in April 1971. In February 1972, Mao received Nixon. Sport was a catalyst again in South Africa when rugby was used by Nelson Mandela to unite a deeply divided South Africa post-apartheid.

SAFRICA-RUGBY-WC95-MANDELA-PIENAAR-OBIT-FILESThis iconic photo was taken on June 24, 1995 shows South African President Nelson Mandela congratulating South Africa's rugby team captain Francois Pienaar before handing him the Cup after the 1995 Rugby World Cup final between South Africa and New Zealand in Johannesburg.

Here on our continent, the Great War saw a celebrated moment of peace in 1915 as soldiers from both sides called a spontaneous truce to play a football match between the trenches. Also in Europe, some visionaries from L'Equipe created the European Cup ten years after the end of World War II, a rare, unifying concept in a Europe riven by the Iron Curtain, monarchies, Republics, dictators, capitalists, communists, Catholics, Protestants, orthodoxy and Islam. It was one of the first steps to European reconciliation after the mother of all wars.

Soldiers down weapons to play a game of football in WWI.

Right now it is shame that sports fans feel for the appalling actions of the PSV fans in the Plaza Mayor in Madrid, and those of Sparta Prague fans in Rome. I'm pleased to hear that PSV have set about identifying the culprits and acting to exclude them from the club. I hope Sparta do the same. We need to be firm and reclaim football, for sport, for the values of tolerance, understanding and inclusion that it engenders. Absurd is the nicest word I can use to explain an attitude among some in the halls of UEFA that "If it didn't happen on the pitch, then..." The same attitude adopted by Villar at the tragic death of Jimmy.