Football for Peace and Development

Yesterday morning while listening to Morning Edition on NPR, I heard this feature about FIFA spending 1/3 of 1 percent (translation: chump change) of the $3 billion it earned on the World Cup on a program called 20 Centers for 2010. These football centers are suppose to focus on promoting education, public health, and of course football throughout six countries on the continent. Besides the fact that only four centers are completed and that all twenty centers won't be done until 2012 (yeah, don't be confused by the name of the program or anything), the part that really got me scratching my head was this quote:

"There aren't many organizations out there that are using football as a tool for social development and also have experience running youth centers."

In addition to international organizations like Right to Play, which, as their name would suggest, is all about working with youth, I was recently introduced to the wonderful organization Play 31. As Jakob Lund, founder & director, told me, this organization works in countries that have recently been affected by conflict and uses football as a means of reconciliation. So far, the organization focuses activities in Sierra Leone and organizing community meetings and football matches for kids, women and men. Lund has been leading an amazing campaign to raise funds to expand activities and has been featured all over the press, including the New York Times. Asked about what inspired the creation of the organization, Lund said "the trigger for the creation of Play 31 was when couple of little boys asked me if I wanted to play ball with them at a guest house in Moyamba. Their ball was a complete wreck and when I bought them a new one, it was their enthusiasm and joy that convinced me I needed to start an organization focusing on children's right to play, using the sport to foster reconciliation." All this on just his winter break trip to Sierra Leone while at grad school at Columbia!

Having worked in the business of international development for quite a few years now, I've seen first hand how much individuals and organizations want to help people throughout the continent. I love the use of a fun and universal sport like football as a means of peace and development. However, as is so often the case, a lack of communication and coordination can get in the way of good intentions. With organizations like Play 31 and Right to Play, not to mention all the African-based organizations that I may not know about but feel convinced exist, FIFA really should have no problem burning through 1/3 of 1 percent of $3 billion dollars to get football to kids throughout the continent!

{Photos courtesy of Play 31}


Uzo said...

Got to love a little NPR on the way to work. This story caught my attention as well. I felt like there was a little too much reaching over and patting their own back going on by FIFA. I suppose one must be thankful that more will come out of this first African World Cup. But I was left with the feeling that more could and should be done. FIFA, football and Africa all stand to benefit from these educational centers because not only could they find the next Diop or Achebe but also the next Weah or Drogba.

Shawn Forde said...

Hi Brandie,

I just came across your post. I'm currently working on a football for development project in Lesotho - where one of the centers is supposed to be built later this year or early next year. I'm writing a blog about my experiences http://shawn-bapala.blogspot.com.

Anyways, I would recommend checking out this article about the 20 centers for 2010. Summarizes a lot of good points


kelly jo said...

sigh. agreeing with Uzo, how many large companies/organizations pat themselves on the back about how much their getting done when no one actually reports enough publicly on what the final result is. of course sport - especially football - is used to promote conflict resolution and development in communities that struggle with getting food on the table and living healthy lives. FIFA is proving that their lack of training goes beyond their referees.