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Slovakian referee Lubos Michel was among three to visit Sierra Leone on behalf of UEFA.
Amid these events, in which football maintains a seemingly ambiguous influence, Hughes accompanies referees Lubos Michel (Slovakia), Anders Frisk (Sweden) and Markus Merk (Germany) on a UEFA-sponsored mission to beleaguered Sierra Leone, recovering after the end of civil war in January 2002 (see also the account on UEFA's website, and the BBC World Football program devoted to the visit on 3 April). UEFA helps fund work of the International Committee of the Red Cross in reuniting children with parents and protecting them in future conflict. The traumatic effects of war are apparent in Hughes's account:
On March 17, [the referees] took turns changing into their uniforms in the Red Cross Land Rover, and officiating at a game between 14-year-olds of two refugee camps, Gerihun and Jembe. ¶When Jembe opened the scoring, the boy who scored the goal ran to the corner flag, calling his teammates to him. There, he turned, pretended that he had a machine gun in his hands, and "mowed down" his pals, who fell to the ground. ¶The villagers, standing in front of their mud huts on the edge of Jembe camp, laughed at the children's celebration. It was an innocent act from children in a society that has lost all innocence, but few of those who were there were shocked by the boys' playful exhibition.
For additional reading about a possible role for football refereeing in violent societies—specifically within Sierra Leone—see Paul Richards, "Soccer and Violence in War-Torn Africa: Soccer and Social Rehabilitation in Sierra Leone," in Entering the Field: New Perspectives on World Football, ed. Gary Armstrong and Richard Giulianotti (Oxford: Berg, 1997), 141–57, especially 150–52.