Fair play, discipline, social inclusion and mobility, and the message that football can help create a better world for everyone. That was how FIFA Secretary General Jérôme Valcke, World Cup winner Ronaldo and Brazil’s Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo officially launched the Football For Hope Festival 2014. The ceremony took place at the Mane Garrincha Olympic Village, located in Complexo do Caju, a region of Rio de Janeiro that is currently undergoing tremendous social change. 

The Festival will take place from 3 to 10 July and will bring together delegations from 32 youth organizations that are carrying out FIFA sponsored community projects. The festival programme includes a number of cultural and educational activities in which the delegations will take part, culminating in a football tournament where mixed teams will play against each other without the help of a referee. Any disagreements on the pitch will be resolved through dialogue, encouraging personal development and mutual understanding.

Ronaldo was eager to set a good example and took part in a match with students from the Olympic Experimental Gymnasium (GEO) public school, which forms part of the Mane Garrincha Olympic Village complex. “Everybody knows how football transformed my life. It was a very important part of my childhood, gave me hope for the future, and taught me values such as discipline and fair play,” said the former Brazil international. “Children dream of playing in the World Cup when they grow up, but it’s much more than just a football tournament. It’s a moment of great visibility for Brazil, and will leave behind an important social legacy. Thirty two delegations from all over the world will visit Brazil to share in an unforgettable experience.” 

The Festival Football For Hope participants were chosen for their leadership potential and the contributions they have made to building a better future for their respective communities through football. During the festival, they will have the chance to exchange information about best working practices, play football, and enjoy the FIFA World Cup. The event will demonstrate how football can help people to bring about social development in their communities. There will be exhibitions of fair play, passion for football and cultural diversity, reflecting the different origins of the participating organisations and their delegations.

“It’s something that’s worth repeating again and again. Football is more than just a game. It’s not all just about the FIFA World Cup Final. The Festival Football For Hope, here in Caju, is important as the final at the Maracana,” said Valcke. “FIFA doesn’t just organise football tournaments. We’re investing significantly in helping a number of organisations and programs around the globe, in order to make the world a better place to live. Football really can help. At FIFA we are committed to social development, and support a large number of organisations all over the world.” 

Britto brings colour to the occasion

The ceremony also included a visit from Brazilian artist Romero Britto, who unveiled a mural painted with the help of students from the GEO. The artwork revealed the students’ concern for the environment and included the message “recycle now.” “The kids were really keen to get involved. Social inclusion is so important, and this is a great FIFA initiative. I hope that the message inspires lots of children who come here during the Festival.”  

Also at the ceremony were Federico Addiechi, FIFA Head of Corporate Social Responsibility, Leonardo Maciel, Head of Rio Eventos, and David Barbosa de Souza, Director of the Instituto Brasileiro de Estudos Especializados e Avancados (IBEEA) (“Brazilian Institute of Specialised Studies”), the NGO that organises the Mane Garrincha Olympic Village event program. 

For Brazil’s Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo, the Festival Football For Hope shows how football can play a part in increasing social mobility. 

“Football has always contributed to the social development of underprivileged young people in Brazil. So it’s only natural that when FIFA was organising the World Cup, we found space and resources for programs like this, which give value to the lives of young people. This kind of project also recognises the importance of football as a platform for social development in a world that is still full of inequality.”