Ali Yusoph | Engineer, Sportsman

“If only the Meranaw could engage in sports and practice sportsmanship more often, then we will see a lot less conflict and violence in Lanao.” 

This statement embodies the conviction of Meranaw engineer Ali Yusoph, a sports enthusiast and former lecturer at the Mindanao State University who plays soccer, basketball, table tennis and badminton, among others, and sees games as a way of promoting camaraderie among the young people of Lanao del Sur.

Yusoph was a member of the Ranao Council that founded the Al Khwarizmi International School where he taught for a time. In 2013, he and his wife, MSU professor Sorhaila Latip-Yusoph, returned to a project of their own, the Soar High Knowledge Center that offered review courses for students taking entrance exams to high schools and colleges. 

Before the Marawi siege of May 2017, Yusoph was already toying with the idea of forming sports clubs as a way of promoting good, clean and healthy fun and friendship among the youth. He had seen how sports could galvanize them and promote a positive outlook. 

The siege disrupted all that, with the Yusophs finding themselves part of the internally displaced population of Marawi. Being relatively well off with clan members to support them, they became home-based IDPs. 

The Marawi siege and its aftermath—the anger, resentment and hate—signalled to Yusoph that it was time to revive his idea of forming sports clubs as way of countering the sentiments that if left unchecked could push the youth over to the side of violent extremism. He has approached politicians and civic groups with his idea. One place that picked it up was a barangay in Saguiaran town where basketball games became the source of fighting within the community. 

That sports could trigger enmity in Lanao del Sur has to do with the prevailing mindset that discourages young people from going into sports. That’s because some elders take the Meranaw value of maratabat, pride and honor simply put,too seriously and apply it even to sports, so that victories and defeats are taken as an affront and trigger rido or clan wars. 

For now Yusoph hopes that other barangays will pick up on his idea, as will parents, who might learn a thing or too about sportsmanship from watching their children play.