On Tuesday 9 March, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown welcomed three UK-based organisations who are taking part in the Football for Hope Festiva 2010 l in July to 10 Downing Street. Representatives from DADs Against Drugs (DADs), Kick4Life and Street League gathered in the gardens of London’s most famous address for a chat with Mr. Brown and Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary.
The organisations have been chosen by FIFA and by streetfootballworld to take part in the festival in Johannesburg because they have been seen to bring about change for young people and because the programmes they offer are considered to be of extremely high quality. In total, 32 groups of young people from around the world will come to South Africa to take part in this official event of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™.
The Prime Minister took a great deal of time to chat some of the youngsters involved in the three projects; finding out where they played in their respective teams, discussing the form of their favourite club sides, while lamenting the fortunes of his own (Raith Rovers), as well as congratulating them for the efforts they had made in transforming their lives and their local areas.
“I'd like to wish the teams the best of luck for the forthcoming Football For Hope festival which is taking place at the same time as the World Cup in South Africa,” the Prime Minister told FIFA.com. “The festival will not only showcase the game of football, but also its ability to bring people together. It's great to see sport being used as a force for good - and it's particularly good to see football being front and centre in that campaign.”
Mr. Brown was presented with a football shirt emblazoned with ‘Brown 10’ by the Hull based organisation DADs. The organisation also brought a similar shirt for Nelson Mandela, together with a ball which is making a journey from the northern city to South Africa, via a number of symbolic stopping points.
Sixteen-year-old Alicia Staves was one of the DADs group who spoke to the Prime Minister and Home Secretary and described it as “a day she’ll never forget.”
“There’s not that many teenagers can say that they’ve been in the Prime Minister’s home, in his garden and actually met him,” smiled Alicia. “He made everyone feel at ease, he had a real laugh with us and was genuinely interested in what we are doing. We’re really lucky because we’re now going to South Africa – and it’s all thanks to DADs.”
The group’s founder, Rob Broomfield, was also delighted with the Downing Street experience.
“To have our work recognised by the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary, who were so enthusiastic about the work we are doing is absolutely magnificent, but I have to say that the experience we’ve had with DADs has been phenomenal,” he said. “To see people come out of crime, poverty and drugs with football as the catalyst has been amazing. I hope that this will serve to inspire these youngsters and others in the years to come.”
A group with a similar pedigree and success rate, Street League, who are based in London, Glasgow and Newcastle, had recently been given a boost after being named as one of the FA’s Official Charity Partners for 2010. Their Chief Executive and Founder, Dr. Damian Hatton, pointed to the fact that the global game can bring about significant change in troubled communities.
“I think some people underestimate the power of football as a vehicle for social development, but if you use some of the sport’s core values, it can transform people’s lives,” he said. “A total of 85 per cent of youngsters involved in our fast-track programmes are moving on to education, training and employment. Today has been the start of their journey to South Africa, which will be an absolutely incredible experience for them.”
One of the youngsters who played at the 2006 event in Berlin, Nicky Meta, who is now a Street League Ambassador, thinks that the experience of South Africa will serve to inspire all of the youngsters involved. “I will never forget that,” he smiled. “It will live with me forever. The chance to play football with youngsters from other countries with the backdrop of the real World Cup was a dream. I even got to go to a real World Cup match, France against Spain, and I still smile when I think about being in the stadium.”
Between the DADs and Street League teams, stood Ben Fishlock, a trustee of the Kick4Life organisation, a UK-based charity which has set-up in Lesotho. They are sending a group of youngsters who are involved in their HIV programme to Alexandra for the festival.
“Although Lesotho is located within South Africa, most of the players will never have left the kingdom before, so it will be an incredible experience for them,” he explained. “Football for Hope has also chosen Lesotho as one of the locations for 20 Centres for 2010.
"Building work starts in five months time and should be completed by the end of the year. The centre is going to include a sports pitch, classroom and health clinic. It’s amazing, and it just wouldn’t have happened without FIFA and streetfootballworld.”