Football World Cup As Changemaker

Today, the biggest sport event in the world kicks off for the first time in Africa. However it will play out, whichever country will win in the end, it will be a hugely significant event. The money spent on infrastructure, stadiums, travel for competing teams and their staff, match tickets, broadcasting rights, advertising, sponsorships etcetera is virtually uncountable. South Africa alone has reportedly spent $ 3.7 billion in the preparation. And it is not at all sure that this money will be earned back by increased tax revenues from tourism and other economic spin off. Some people will argue that organizing an event like this, and spending all this money on ‘just a game’ is wasteful, and that the resources involved could better be spent on education, eradication of malaria and AIDS, battling poverty, the environment and other good causes. However, although there is something to say for that, it is not looking at the whole picture. This World Cup tournament is serving more than ever as a vehicle for the promotion of several good causes. And football is simply more than just a game. With over a billion people around the world expected to watch the opening match between hosts South Africa and Mexico, football can arguably be called the most important side issue there is. But, let’s have a closer look at in what ways this event is used to convey a message.

African Pride
Hosting the FIFA World Cup for the first time in Africa is a big deal to many Africans. Africa is still largely viewed as the Dark Continent, where poverty, drought, hunger, diseases and dictators rule. To many people, Africa is a bit hopeless. Preparing a country for such a tournament is an enormous infrastructural challenge. Building state of the art airports, roads and stadiums takes planning and execution excellence. Finishing it before the deadline has proven difficult in many countries. But South Africa did it all in time, proving that Africans can get things done. If the tournament is a success, many Africans will be proud. Especially if it is an African nation taking the cup.

National Teamspirit
Some of the participating national teams use their World Cup 2010 campaign to draw attention to a cause they care for. Oranje, the Dutch national squad, will focus on their World Coaches programme in which people are trained to be coaches for football playing kids. Not only regarding the sport, but also in life, to create a social space where kids learn how to develop their talents and passions. Oranje will open a WorldCoach Academy on the Wits Univeristy, which is also their WC2010 training facility, and will probably open 1 or 2 Johan Cruyff courts, which are special football pitches in cities where children can safely play.
The American team has connected itself to the fight to end malaria through United Against Malaria. Next to that, they have teamed up with the Pepsi Refresh programme. Fans can vote for player’s favorite projects and the winning project gets a grant of $ 50,000.
Englands FA’s main cause is the Respect project. As a kid, I used to play football, and even then ranting parents were a nuisance. In many places in Western Europe this has developed into a situation where amateur referees are pulling away from the game, because they have to suffer a lot of abuse and threats. Also some kids stop playing because these people just take away the pleasure. It is a big problem, and it is great that the England squad is standing up against it.
Captains of the national teams of South Africa, Nigeria, France, Paraguay, Uruguay, Australia, Cote D’Ivoire, Uruguay, Greece, and Serbia responded to an appeal by German player Michael Ballack and Togan Emmanuel Adebayor to sign an appeal from UNAIDS to prevent mothers from dying and babies from becoming infected with HIV/AIDS. Africa is the continent that suffers the most from this disease, so the World Cup in South Africa is an excellent time to call upon world leaders to act on this issue.

The Big Brands
In international football, there are basically three sports apparel companies that rule the fields: Puma, Nike and Adidas. At least two of these have learned about the value of CSR the hard way many years ago. The most prolific in terms of CSR activity around the World Cup is Nike. As sponsors of 9 of the competing nations, they have come up with a shirt made out of plastic bottles. It takes about 8 bottles to make one shirt, and all in all it will take out 254,000 kg of plastic bottles out of landfills. Next to that, Nike is participating in(RED), the organisation that takes up to 50% of profits made on (RED) products and uses that to buy and distribute antiretroviral medicine. Another programme that Nike is involved in is ninemillion.org; a project by the UNHCR, Nike and Microsoft to bring nine million children from the bottom of the pyramid better access to education, technology and sports.
Puma is sponsor of many African national teams. And they show it. They have teamed up with UNEP to spend the proceeds from sale of the Africa Unity kit on a conservation project. Three projects are selected, and fans can vote on Facebook for the project they think should get the money.
Adidas, as main sponsor of FIFA, has connected with the South African department of education for the My 2010 School Adventure initiative to enrich curricula, train teachers and participate in football event.

Other Organisations
One of the most prolific campaigns on social networks is Join1Goal, a campaign to ‘seize the power of football to ensure that education for all is a lasting impact of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.’ The campaign was launched by Her Majesty Queen Rania of Jordan, and has more than 8 million supporters so far, amongst whom are many of the top players competing in the tournament.
The Barefoot foundation, an initiative of Columbian singer Shakira, who also performs the World Cup 2010 theme song, has joined hands with Unicef and Mango to design and produce a special line of t-shirts. Proceeds from the sales will support early childhood education initiatives in South Africa.

Probably, there are many other examples of how the FIFA World Cup 2010 is seen and taken as an opportunity to change the world for the better. If you have any other examples, please share them in the comments, or on our facebook page.

Links to organisations and initiatives mentioned in this postcan be found at our delicious #FootballCSR bookmarks.

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