The humanitarian dimension to football was the centre of attention in Zurich on Friday, 26 October 2012 when Dr. Gabriele Princess Inaara The Begum Aga Khan visited Home of FIFA.
The qualified legal practitioner, a staunch advocate for the improvement of living conditions for women and children around the world, met FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter for a stimulating exchange of views, and took time out afterwards to speak to FIFA.com.
FIFA.com: Your Highness, what brings you here today?
Inaara Aga Khan: I became an ambassador for Football for Hope in 2009, and I'm very proud of that. At the time, I joined the FIFA President in South Africa for the opening of the first Football for Hope Centre in Khayelitsha. These centres, and there are a number of them now, are a fantastic institution for many, many children, who attend the centres every day and receive education through games, including advice on protecting themselves from infectious diseases. They learn how to follow the right path. FIFA assists them via Football for Hope, a wonderful project which I've been delighted to support from the start.
You actively support a large number of charitable causes, and you have your own aid organisation, the Princess Inaara Foundation.
My foundation assists a number of projects in various countries, including a microcredit bank in India, and animal-assisted therapies for sick and traumatised children in Germany. We run a meeting place for children from distressed backgrounds to encounter animals. It's another of our very rewarding projects.
What is the function of football in supporting social and community projects?
Football is the world's best-loved and best-known sport. Practically every child on the planet kicks a ball from a very young age and is thrilled by doing so. This enthusiasm ensures that people from the widest variety of backgrounds and nationalities, who don't even speak the same language, come together via the shared language of football. We have to make use of the community spirit which arises from this, and this is exactly what FIFA has done for countless years now. It's a wonderful path to follow, as is the FIFA Football for Health program, teaching children preventative methods to ensure better hygiene and shield them from infectious diseases.
Can you describe your feelings when you ultimately see the results of projects like this?
It's a magnificent feeling. You’re delighted and satisfied, because you see the project has had an effect. The people in Khayelitsha were all unbelievably happy and proud to have the centre among them. You have an incredible feeling of confirmation and joy.
You’re also actively involved in the fight against discrimination and racism. How can we eradicate these evils from our society?
In my opinion, it's important that role models such as football stars convey and embody these truths: that we all have the same rights, and that we must dismantle stereotypes. People should be courageous enough to get to know each other better, and spend more time engaging with other nations’ traditions and histories.
FIFA has introduced a new initiative, Handshake for Peace. How important are initiatives like this in the effort to clear up misunderstanding?
Football plays a very important role. In football, certain rules apply to everyone involved. Fair play is a priority. You’re obliged to keep the rules. Part of the game is accepting disappointment. This is how it should be in society, so football sets a fine example.
How can individuals contribute to a better world?
Each of us can give something according to his or her means, and that doesn't necessarily involve money. For example, I know a young man who's a good footballer, who spends his leisure time training kids from difficult backgrounds and bringing them together – and he does this voluntarily. He does it because he enjoys it, and he’s done so much good as a result. Everyone can forego some time and energy on behalf of others. And that inspires even more people to do the same.