Ibrahim: My life has changed
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More than a year has passed since the Football For Hope Festival that took place during the finals of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ in Johannesburg’s Alexandra Township between 4 and 10 July. FIFA, streetfootballworld, the 2010 FIFA World Cup Organizing Committee South Africa and the City of Johannesburg worked hand in hand to put on a football tournament featuring 32 mixed teams of disadvantaged boys and girls from deprived areas around the world.

But the event was about more than football, with art workshops and other events incorporated into a program that aimed to demonstrate the power and effectiveness of football in tackling social problems.

One young woman who will never forget her time in South Africa is 19-year-old Rashida Ibrahim, who, alongside 31 other children from right across the globe, participated in the art workshop run by famous Brazilian artist Romero Britto and produced a picture of her country’s flag. Rashida Ibrahim was part of The Peace Team from Israel and Palestine coordinated jointly by The Peres Center for Peace and Al-Quds Association for Democracy and Dialog. FIFA.com caught up with the spirited Ibrahim to hear her memories of those days in South Africa.

Wonderful though the experience was, Ibrahim is the first to admit it was rather daunting at first: “I was a bit scared when I first got to South Africa, because I’ve never participated in a mixed group like that before, but I soon got used to it. When I say 'mixed', I mean we were a group of Israelis and Palestinians, and we really engaged with each other as a team. There were lots of people welcoming us to South Africa so it was a very positive atmosphere, and I achieved a lifelong dream when I got to watch the FIFA World Cup live,” she explained.

Watching the games in the stadium was an experience she will never forget, and one that remains as vivid today as ever. “I still think about the times we went to watch the games. I never dreamed that one day I'd be watching FIFA World Cup matches live and seeing the players in the flesh, not to mention the crowds of supporters from around the world. I’ll remember those moments forever,” she said.

I never dreamed that one day I'd be watching FIFA World Cup matches live and seeing the players in the flesh, not to mention the crowds of supporters from around the world.
Rashida Ibrahim, Football For Hope Festival participant

Away from the action, Rashida had a chance to develop her talent for art, and she stood out from the other kids at the workshop as the only participant to create a picture of her country’s flag.

“At first I was a bit discouraged,” she said, talking of her time with Romero Britto, “because I had no idea what to draw. Then I had the idea of depicting the Palestinian flag, so that’s what I did and Romero was delighted when he saw I was the only one to choose that subject matter. He told me I must love my country very much!”

These days, Rashida Ibrahim takes her experiences at the camp in Johannesburg and uses them to raise awareness among her contemporaries about the importance of football and activities that aim to “boost self-confidence”.

“My life has changed. Being part of the Football For Hope festival really boosted my self-esteem and confidence. My society is quite conservative and closed: you rarely see girls playing football where I live. Slowly but surely, though, things are getting better but we must remember that sport plays a vital role in building a society.”

“When I meet my friends at the college where I study, I try to pass on what I learned from my time in South Africa. I see it as a message; it will encourage them to play football and open their minds to the possibility of doing something similar.”

Where that mission will eventually take her is still unclear, but one thing is certain: the assured and confident Rashida Ibrahim we see today is not the same girl that stepped off the plane in South Africa 13 months ago.