Hope through the power of football
© Getty Images

Since 2005, FIFA's Football for Hope initiative has supported local organisations in aiding disadvantaged youths and communities, and improving the quality of life for needy people through the vehicle of football. In 2011, the initiative again supported 63 projects around the world, adding 16 new local organisations to its roster. Over the last 12 months, the world governing body's corporate social responsibility programme placed special focus on education, eco-consciousness and the fight against discrimination.

Broadening horizons with education
We open our review in Colombia, where two Football for Hope projects run by the Colombianitos and SIDOC foundations, in Bogota and Cali respectively, offer youths the opportunity to play football while simultaneously receiving a school education and support from psychologists and social workers. At the FIFA U-20 World Cup Colombia 2011, FIFA, the Inter-American Development Bank and Coca-Cola pledged to support the two programmes with a total of US$1.1 million over three years.

“Ciudad Bolivar in Bogota suffers from extreme poverty," explained Colombianitos director Ana Arizabaleta. "Many families simply can’t afford school uniforms for their kids, and have no chance of providing them with an education. And even those who do attend school only have class until midday. But if we manage to bring them to Colombianitos, we can change their lives. Football is certainly a major factor in that."

SIDOC technical director Christine Armitage was equally upbeat. “This project is a chance for the kids to learn something about values, principles, and the potential to resolve conflict peacefully via football. But it’s also a way of promoting social skills and knowledge within the community. That's our guarantee, thanks to this project."

Flying the green flag
One of the success criteria for a FIFA World Cup™ nowadays is a package of measures reducing the tournament’s negative impact on the climate. In 2011, Cape Town’s pro-environment programme for South Africa 2010 was named the best environment protection project in Africa by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The year also saw the first-ever environment initiatives at a FIFA Women's World Cup™ and a FIFA U-20 World Cup.

Green Goal 2011, the environment initiative of the FIFA Women's World Cup in Germany, was a wide-ranging programme aimed at minimising the tournament’s negative impact on the climate. It focused on the key areas of energy, water, waste and refuse, transportation and catering. Activities ranged from boosting the use of public transport to providing locally-sourced organic catering.

Another pleasing aspect is that the FIFA Women's World Cup has left a green footprint. This demonstrates that major sporting events can be fair to the climate and environmentally friendly.
Claudia Roth, chair of the German Green Party

One major success was the introduction of sustainable eco-friendly stadium management systems, saving precious resources and reducing operating costs at the same time. Additionally, a total of 40,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions at the tournament were balanced by a €600,000 investment in emissions reduction projects elsewhere.

“We're proud to announce that the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup was fair to the climate. The incremental 40,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions attributable to the tournament were entirely balanced by international climate protection projects," said German Football Association (DFB) president Dr Theo Zwanziger.

Leading politician Claudia Roth, chair of the German Green Party, was closely involved in the initiative. She said: “Another pleasing aspect is that the FIFA Women's World Cup has left a green footprint. This demonstrates that major sporting events can be fair to the climate and environmentally friendly."

In Colombia, FIFA worked closely with the government, global conservation organisation WWF and the Colombian Football Federation (FCF) to finance the planting of 35,000 trees. This not only balanced some 9,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions, but also raised awareness of 21st-century environmental topics among a broader public.

“FCF and the national government, represented by the environment ministry, joined forces in thinking and acting in favour of the environment at this sporting event, the most important of its type in the history of our country,” declared FCF president Luis Bedoya.

Fair play and fighting discrimination
In another first, a FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup provided the setting for the launch of the FIFA Fair Play Days, as hosts Italy and their opponents Iran kicked off the 15th edition of the initiative in the Italian coastal resort of Ravenna. From 2 to 6 September, some 60 member associations participated in the annual fair play project, staging events prior to matches and calling for equal treatment, justice and solidarity among players, coaches, referees, officials and spectators. In Europe, the Fair Play Days coincided with the final round of UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying, and as in the previous year, were combined with UEFA's Respect campaign.

The FIFA Women's World Cup semi-finals on 13 July were also dedicated to the fight against discrimination. Immediately before kick-off, the captains of Japan, Sweden, USA and France read declarations committing their teams to fair play, equality and solidarity, and called on all fans to support these principles. This is fully in line with Article 3 of the FIFA statutes: “Discrimination of any kind against a country, private person or group of people on account of ethnic origin, gender, language, religion, politics or any other reason is strictly prohibited and punishable by suspension or expulsion.”

Long-term investment in Africa
At South Africa 2010, the governing body pledged to establish 20 Football for Hope centres in African communities, with the goal of a sustainable contribution to social development. Two years on, FIFA continues to provide funds for staff, the planning and construction of centres, and support for local organisers.

To take one example, the Football for Hope centre in Maseru, Lesotho, opened its doors on 24 September. The facility offers health education, including information about HIV/AIDS, testing facilities, advice and support. In addition, the centre will provide young people with fundamental life skills, and support for individual personal development. A number of community-based projects are at the planning stage, specifically targeted at disadvantaged and vulnerable young women.

“This centre is a magnificent initiative," explained the new centre’s general manager, Refiloe Maphallela. "Thanks to this facility in the community of Maseru, young people from all over the nation will participate in Kick4Life education and health programmes, while simultaneously using our football pitches."

Centres in Cape Coast (Ghana) and Kigali (Rwanda) were also completed. These two are principally designed for kids and youths, and dedicated to topics such as education, health and peaceful conflict resolution.

Support from FIFA partners
FIFA World Cup sponsor Yingli Solar is a supporter of the campaigns, providing state-of-the-art solar technology for the 20 Football for Hope centres. Yingli Solar is involved at the early planning stages for each centre, initially analysing local requirements, before delivering and installing tailored photovoltaic system solutions. The centres benefit greatly from their independence from public electricity grids, boasting their own power supply for floodlighting, laptop operation, interior lighting, desk and ceiling fans, and air conditioning.

Other FIFA partners have offered significant support to Football for Hope and its member organisations. A component of the Sony Siyakhona programme was the distribution of media equipment valued at US$86,000 to 40 non-governmental organisations (NGOs), plus a variety of media training courses and film projects. adidas conducted football training, management practice and organisation skills seminars for NGOs in Colombia, Kenya and South Africa.

Federico Addiechi, FIFA's head of Corporate Social Responsibility, said: “Over the last 12 months, we have successfully continued our joint efforts with interest groups around the world, including FIFA partners, member associations, local organisations and international development agencies. With the help of football, we have promoted and supported initiatives for social development and environment protection at the local and national level. Based on our measurable successes, we have again clearly demonstrated football’s effectiveness in promoting a better and sustainable future."

The following 16 projects were newly adopted by the Football for Hope initiative in 2011:

- Albion in the Community (United Kingdom)
Education, employment and training for vulnerable 16-25 year-olds in social housing

- Bauleni United Sports Academy (Zambia)

Youth empowerment programmes focusing on topics such as HIV/AIDs, illiteracy, gender equality and drug abuse

- Club Deportivo y Social Bongiovanni (Argentina)

Health promotion through education about sexual health and prevention of drug and alcohol abuse

- Companheiros das Americas (Brazil)

Youth employment programmes that combine football, life skills, vocational training and internships

- Dream A Dream (India)

Life skills education for 8-18 year-olds on health, relationships, self-awareness and livelihoods

- Fundación World Coach (Colombia)

Capacity building for community coaches from disadvantaged areas

- Fútbol por la Vida (Costa Rica)

Youth empowerment through education and the promotion of self-esteem, gender equality and conflict resolution through dialogue

- Mifalot (Israel)

Joint Israeli-Palestinian peacebuilding activities in marginalized communities

- OASIS - South African Homeless Street Soccer Project (South Africa)

Prevention and reintegration of youth living on the streets

- Project Goal (USA)

Gang and delinquency prevention for 10-17 year-olds

- RheinFlanke (Germany)
Integration, empowerment and vocational training for young migrants

- SEPROJOVEN (Costa Rica)

Girls football league against violence and discrimination

- Southern Sudan Youth Sports Association (South Sudan)

Post-conflict youth development project

- Sport in Action (Zambia)

HIV/AIDs prevention through empowerment, self-respect and healthy life choices

- Start Again (United Kingdom)

Community-reintegration and vocational training for youth with mental health problems

- The Big Issue (Australia)

Empowerment programmes for homeless, unemployed and marginalised people