One year from today, as South Africa prepares for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ final, a very different celebration will be taking place in the township of Alexandra in Johannesburg.
While the FIFA World Cup will bring together the greatest football teams on the planet, the Football for Hope Festival 2010 will assemble 32 teams that represent the power of the game for social change.
Today, the final line-up was announced, and among the delegations will be organisations that use football to address ethnic violence in Israel and Palestine, environmental pollution in the slums of Kenya, HIV and Aids education in South Africa, landmine education in Cambodia and gang culture in Ecuador.
In a specially constructed stadium in the heart of Alexandra, the mixed teams of boys and girls aged 15 to 18 will compete in a fast-paced tournament to be crowned Football for Hope world champions on 10 July 2010. There will be no referees - any disagreements between the teams are resolved through dialogue - and for the first time ever a celebration of the social dimension of the game will be an official event of the FIFA World Cup.
But the Football for Hope Festival 2010 is much more than just a football tournament. Each delegation is selected not for their skill on the pitch but their contribution to social change in disadvantaged communities around the world. During their stay in South Africa, they will take part in workshops and activities where they will learn from each other and improve their work.
"The Football for Hope Festival will be a unique opportunity for organisations using football as a tool for social development in every part of the world to interact with each other and to showcase their programmes on football's biggest stage - the 2010 FIFA World Cup," said FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter. "We look forward to welcoming them to South Africa and experiencing together how football is contributing to building a better future."
In total, the delegations represent over 50 organisations from 35 nations, including traditional football powers like Germany, Cameroon, Brazil and Argentina as well as others such as India, Lesotho, Tahiti, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Australia, Zimbabwe and Rwanda.
The two-week festival will also include a programme of cultural celebration between the international delegations and their South African hosts. The City of Johannesburg, which will organise the festival along with FIFA, streetfootballworld and the 2010 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee South Africa, hopes that the event can help write a new chapter in the history of Alexandra, which suffered from xenophobic attacks in 2008.
You can find more information on the Football for Hope Festival 2010 and the participating delegations by clicking on the links to the right of this story.