Queens High School in the Johannesburg neighbourhood of Bedfordview was the venue as 32 children from across the globe attended a painting workshop with the Brazilian artist Romero Britto. The event was part of the Football for Hope programme, an initiative launched by FIFA in association with streetfootballworld to harness football’s power and influence in the pursuit of solutions to social problems everywhere.
It all began in the school’s courtyard as the youngsters sat themselves down and listened to Britto outline the goals of the workshop. It was then time for everyone to grab a paintbrush and express their thoughts on their own countries through art. The mood was relaxed and playful as the children went to work, with plenty of laughter lighting up the occasion, while Britto passed from one painting to the next, handing out advice to each budding young artist
After all the paintings were complete, the Palestinian flag depicted by 18-year-old Rachida Brahim caught the eye in particular. "I’m Palestinian," she said. "I’m a member of the Peace Team, which is made up of Palestinian and Israeli children. We’ve learned a lot by being here about each other and each other’s cultures. It’s really great; I’m very happy to be here and I’m getting a lot out of my stay."
The children taking part hailed from the 32 teams of young people from countries badly affected by social problems that are currently in South Africa for the Football for Hope Festival. Organised over the final two weeks of the FIFA World Cup™, the festival is being held in the Johannesburg township of Alexandra and will culminate in a mini-World Cup tournament.
"FIFA is playing a genuine role in inspiring these children," added Romero Britto, who has already painted pieces for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, profits from which have been used to help fund the 20 Centres for 2010 programme. "Their presence here, together, is a great success because they come from all over the world. I’m sure they’ll go home happy and conscious of having an important role to play. They’ll talk with their families and friends about this experience and it will undoubtedly have an impact on their societies. I hope other organisations follow in FIFA’s footsteps. When you enjoy success, you need to share it with others and there’s no doubt that FIFA is one of the most successful organisations around."
Another of the children to have benefited from the workshop was Afolaby Michael. The 15-year-old painted a series of leaves around the letters that make up the name of his homeland, Nigeria. As well as being an avid artist, he is a football fanatic, and he has been engrossed by the tournament unfolding in South Africa. "I followed all of Nigeria’s games, but now they’re out I’ll be supporting Spain," he said. "They’re my favourite team and I adore David Villa. I hope they’ll be world champions."