As the dust settled on the opening day of the Football For Hope Festival 2010 in the township of Alexandra, FIFA.com took a moment to reflect. The event, attended by South African President Jacob Zuma and FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter, as well as the participants and watching locals, proved to be entertaining and enlightening in equal measure.
While children from the township watched the action and players mingled among themselves after their respective matches, FIFA’s Head of Corporate Social Responsibility, Federico Addiechi, and streetfootballworld Managing Director, Jurgen Griesbeck, spoke about the day – and what it meant to them.
The main pitch where the footballing action took place resembled a FIFA World Cup™ stadium, with four stands, a giant screen, space for the media and an advertising board proudly displaying the name of the venue, ‘Alexandra’.
“I think it is a big achievement that the social dimension of the game is recognised by FIFA and made an official event of the World Cup,” said Addiechi. “It shows that we are also using the platform of our flagship event in order to speak about education and health. It’s a big achievement for those who are working out there in disadvantaged communities. These are the people we are doing this for and these are the people that are making a real change around the world.”
In their addresses to the crowd prior to the opening game Zuma and Blatter both spoke about the power of football as a vehicle for social change and to bring people together, which left Griesbeck nodding in agreement.
“Football can achieve great things, if we use it correctly,” he said. “You can do so much and achieve so much with it, probably more than with any other sport in the world. Football is really unique, not only as a global language but also with the passion and the emotion it creates. It's just something that unites and enables people to talk to each other – and from there to build a society.”
Looking around Alexandra, the township once home to Nelson Mandela, the desire for change and improvement is apparent. New homes are being built to improve people’s quality of live and the festival site itself will also leave a lasting legacy to local residents.
“I think this event wouldn’t have fitted in a more affluent area,” said Addiechi. “The communities in Alexandra are similar to the ones that are supported by Football for Hope and that is why we chose to stage it in a place that faces many social and economic difficulties. We have to do it where people can benefit from it and this community is also benefitting.”
“ In the long term we have a media centre today which will be a radio station tomorrow, we have a pitch today that will be a Football For Hope centre tomorrow,” underlined Griesbeck. “Plus, we also didn’t want the local community fenced off from a World Cup event. It's a holistic approach which makes us happy, makes the community happy and makes the delegations coming from all over the world happy. Hopefully the people at this festival can feel it, that what we are talking about here is what football can do for social change on a global scale.”