The Football for Hope Festival 2010 began with a vibrant welcoming ceremony at Team Village in Johannesburg today, much to the delight of over 250 youngsters in attendance. Thirty-two delegations, some from as far afield as the USA and Cambodia, were present to mark the first time the field of Development through Football has been included as an official component of the FIFA World Cup™.
Wrapped in cosy winter gear, delegation members received an even warmer VIP welcome from the mayor of Johannesburg, Amos Masando; councillor Bafana Sithole from the Mayoral Committee for Community Development; Irvin Khoza, Chairman of the Local Organising Committee for the 2010 FIFA World Cup; and Greg Fredericks, also from the Local Organising Committee.
In the spirit of co-operation that has been at the core of the years of planning and implementation of the Football for Hope Festival, streetfootballworld managing director Jurgen Griesbeck and Federico Addiechi, the head of FIFA CSR, took to the stage together. "We now have the opportunity to show the power of football to the world. We're on the World Cup stage," Griesbeck declared to the sounds of drum beats and applause. "You, the youth of today, will be the leaders of tomorrow."
Addiechi added: "We, together, have a great responsibility towards showing the entire world that football is a unique and powerful tool to address the social challenges in your community." Griesbeck and Addiechi also had the honour of revealing three very special trophies: the Fair Play Trophy, the Alex Cup, and the Football for Hope Festival Trophy, which was created by the makers of the FIFA World Cup Trophy, G.D.E. Bertoni.
The Football for Hope Festival 2010 was staged to celebrate the power of football to affect social change, and to honour the youngsters who embrace the sport on a daily basis. The township of Alexandra, the sort of disadvantaged area not generally favoured for major international events, was selected as the official site of the festival as part of a steadfast commitment to social change in local communities. "It's the first time in the long history of the World Cup that a township is an official venue of the World Cup, and we have to celebrate that," said Griesbeck.
The flavour of South Africa, and of Alexandra in particular, was on display from day one, with local dancers and football freestylers wowing their audiences. With a whirlwind schedule packed with cultural and educational activities, the main topic on everyone's mind was nevertheless the tournament draw. Team Uruguay was selected to play the opening match against the host delegation, Team Alex, on 4 July. "We are here to make new friends," announced a young Kick4Life player as the delegation from Lesotho was selected in Group C. "I believe that we're going to have a great two weeks with you guys. On behalf of Kick4Life, I say thank you."
Forming new friendships and introducing new cultures was high on the list of priorities. "Australia's a very diverse country, and we're looking forward to showing our diversity both on and off the pitch," said one player from the Football United delegation. Team Zambia's representative, speaking after an outburst of drumming from her team-mates, was clear on their message: "Let's have fun, make friends and enjoy the game."
The welcoming ceremony also provided an opportunity for organisers to reveal what had long been a closely-guarded secret: that every player will receive a ticket to a quarter-final match at South Africa 2010. It was the perfect gift to the youngsters as they anticipate two weeks of football and other activities.