Football’s bringing hope where it’s most needed
In a country famous for its long - and ultimately successful - fight for democracy, South Africa's staging of the FIFA Confederations Cup is a good time to pay homage to football's many healing powers.
And the Chairman of the 2010 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee South Africa did so extremely eloquently in a stirring speech during the inaugural Football for Hope Forum, which ends tomorrow after three fruitful days of deliberations about using football as a vehicle for change in Vereeniging, on the outskirts of Johannesburg.
"Football is the ideal vehicle for hope. Football is the most democratic of all sports, indeed of all institutions. Football rewards talent and skill, regardless of class or status. In football, all that counts is performance on the field. It matters not if a player is rich or poor. It matters not if a player is tall or short. It matters not if a player is popular or unpopular. It matters only who performs on the field. In football, nobody is excluded - everybody is included. In football, hope lives - hope is never extinguished. In football, nothing is impossible - everything is possible," said Khoza at the forum, attended by over 100 experts in the field of social development through football from around the world.
The forum brings together organisations using the world's favourite sport to address issues such as landmines in Cambodia, homelessness in England, ethnic conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina and HIV and Aids education in South Africa, working alongside global corporations and development institutions.
For Khoza, the forum was also a chance to "come up with new ideas, refreshing and imaginative thinking to translate the meaning of ‘football' and ‘hope' into real action for sustainable living for each and every one of us".
"The challenge and indeed, exciting potential, is one of using football as a messenger of peace, as a medium of goodwill, as a tool for budding entrepreneurs, as a role model for nurturing professional football talent, as a gathering place for educating our youth on HIV/AIDS and other forms of communicable disease, on sexism, on racism, on xenophobia, on environmental protection and so much more," said Khoza.
And on the African continent, he believed, it was where the ability to harness football as an agent for good was most needed.
And he was very warm in his praise for a man he hailed as Africa's biggest supporter in bringing the FIFA World Cup to the African continent - FIFA President Joseph Blatter.
"I would like to thank the President of FIFA, Joseph Sepp Blatter for his unstinting and unwavering support for Africa, South Africa and the developing world. We feel inspired by your courage, your leadership and your bold vision. This momentous inaugural Football for Hope Forum 2009 is a testament to your indefatigable courage, that football is more than a game," said Khoza.
Khoza said Africans "feel humbled that the rest of the world now looks towards us as a source of hope, a source of solutions. It was not always so. Today, as hosts of the 2009 Confederations Cup and the 2010 FIFA World Cup, we have indeed become the head of the corner".
"Football, and FIFA, has brought many gifts to Africa. Football, and FIFA, has brought the Confederations Cup to Africa. Football, and FIFA, has brought the World Cup to Africa. Football, and FIFA, has brought self-respect to Africa. Football, and FIFA, has brought confidence to Africa. Football, and FIFA, has brought opportunity to Africa. Now football, and FIFA, brings hope to Africa," said Khoza.