Love it or hate it, there is no denying that football is a powerful game. It is recognized by many as speaking a universal language to players and spectators alike and is used as a tool to overcome boundaries and build bridges between individuals and communities. And aside from all of this it has an intrinsic value in that the children just love to play! With this in mind, this week in Uganda, S.A.L.V.E partnered with local organization CRO (Child Restoration Outreach), which also works with children on the street in Jinja, to organise a football match for the children from our Drop-in Centre. We are working closely with CRO to make this a weekly event.
It went fantastically! We had an immense turn out for our first game, with over 20 boys from the street voluntarily arriving at 8.30am sharp. That’s impressive for Uganda, where the norm is to be an hour or so late to any occasion. The atmosphere was one of excitement and pre-match banter on the walk to the pitch and in the run-up to kick off. The pitch is away from the public eye which meant that the children could relax and treat it as their own and it formed a neutral environment for the children to engage with one another and with staff.
The first goal was scored by yours truly, although the boys weren’t going to let me hold on to that victory for long! After a competitive match, the game finished at a satisfying 3:3… which means there is everything to play for next week!
After the match, the boys were involved in a short session about the risks of taking drugs, an issue which affects many children on the streets in Jinja. You can read more about this in our blog here.
Sport for Peace and Development
In fact, the use of sport for development is much bigger than just S.A.L.V.E International. It is increasingly being used on an international agenda for development purposes, for example it is used by some as a tool for working towards the Millenium Development Goals. Furthermore, it teaches players skills such as teamwork, cooperation, respect, and trust: all of which are necessary both within sport and within life.
A recent example of the use of sport for development is the African Cup of Nations which took place at the beginning of this year. The competition used its prestige and publicity to highlight the launch of the massive “CAN without AIDS” awareness-raising campaign: just before the kick-off of the first match, 400 young local footballers carried almost 50,000 red and white balloons onto the pitch and formed the red ribbon symbol for the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Initiatives inspired by the World Cup include an initiative called Football for Hope and the Street Child World Cup. Who knows, if we get training you may see us there soon!
In support of the Street Child World Cup, Kofi Annan (former UN Secretary General) said: “It is this passion for football that enables it to have a broader impact on the lives of millions around the world, particularly children”.