Can Football Change the World?
Most of us are blessed to be at home during this holiday season surrounded by our loved ones enjoying great companionship, scrumptious food and the blessing of gifts under the tree. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for all of mankind and I would like to take a moment to think of those with fading hope and growing animosity to the world around them. My intention isn’t to dampen the mood but rather to maintain attention on what should, for all intents and purposes, be at the forefront of our minds.
Through the hustle and bustle of the holiday’s and at times self-inflicted, unnecessary stress, we sometimes dismiss from the mind that in other parts of the world such as Syria, parts of Africa, Iraq and Afganistan they do not have the same privileges as we do and their stresses are quantifiable. In these four regions alone it is estimated that approximately 4,500,000 people, many children, have lost their lives in gruesome, horrifying and frankly disgusting acts of terror in wars that many opposed.
I sit at home every evening watching the news and at times, am nearly brought to tears witnessing the human tragedy which the world is inflicting upon itself. When we see children who haven’t even reached the age of one losing lives through an order from their own President to drop a bomb on one of the last remaining hospitals in a particular region the rage and sadness within can achieve unparalleled heights. The epidemic of war isn’t the only hindrance to Global equality but rather one of the many. There are significant portions of the Globe which will soon succumb to poverty, drugs and crime if we do not play our role as privileged peoples of world.
What can we do?
We all have a niche, a forte or even an interest - mine is football. For others, it may be another activity or hobby however, there is an avenue for everyone to make positive change in the world.
I often blog about the aesthetic beauty of football – the things that we can see which create varying perceptions of joy and sadness; yet there is a deeply rooted influence that the beautiful game has on the world which has motivated decisive change on so many occasions. Throughout history, football has assisted in resolving conflicts and generated a common bond amongst people of sharply contrasting views and objectives. Below, I outline some specific events through history where football has created love, both temporary and permanent:
The Christmas Truce of World War I
During the first World War there was a truce which called German, French and English troops up from their trenches to play a game of football on neutral ground. This enabled the soldiers to share some comradery while temporarily drawing a blank on the catastrophe which had occurred previously and would continue to ensue thereafter – and it all happened on Christmas day. While the war eventually intensified, that one moment of friendship was due to a shared affinity for the beautiful game and brought a reprieve of peace which has been remembered through history.
Nigerian ceasefire to watch Pele play
The two sides fighting each other in the Nigerian civil war which claimed 1,000,000 civilian lives came to an agreement on a 48-hour ceasefire. The reason: Pele was playing in Lagos and the ceasefire allowed football supporters from both sides to watch the great man in action. This was an example of the overwhelming impact that a famous face of football can have throughout the continental world.
Didier Drogba brings peace in the Ivory Coast
Civil War had been raging in the Ivory Coast when the national football team qualified for the 2006 World Cup in Germany. A moment of passion and instinct saw the country’s most famous footballer, Didier Drogba, drop to his knees on national television begging both conflicting sides to bring an end to the atrocities. Drogba’s fame in the Ivory Coast is unprecedented which was evidently exemplified when within one week of his feverous moment did the leaders of both battalions agree to a permanent ceasefire.
The United States of America vs. Iran, World Cup 1998
In the 1998 World Cup Iran was drawn in the same group as the USA meaning that they would battle each other in the group stage. Relations between the two countries were hostile ever since the Iranian revolution saw the ousting of the pro-American shah in 1979. The footballers had different sentiments than enabling a match of controversy, anger and hostility as the Iranians initiated the competition with a gracious gesture by bringing to the pitch white roses, a symbol of peace in Iran, for every member of the USA team. The two squads then intertwined for a group photo which exemplified integration of people to the entire world despite the differences of their respective governing bodies. This match played a larger role to repair relations between the two countries than 20 years of political diplomacy had previously attempted.
The above true stories identify various situations where football has been a force of good within the world and I can assure you, there are plenty more. Most people reading this blogpost are ordinary citizens of the world just like myself and the power to influence change through football or other avenues is miniscule compared to professionals, the military and celebrities. Nonetheless, we still can play a considerable role individually and collaboratively and together, who knows how much we can achieve. After all, there is always a glass ceiling somewhere that needs to be shattered.
To give you one example of a group influencing change, my good friend Alvin Prasad helps run a charity called ‘Every Single Sole’ and the objective is to collect new and mildly used sporting equipment to distribute to impoverished areas around the world. The charity is simple in its requirement yet substantial in its influence. Alvin and the team at Every Single Sole are one piece of a greater alliance which needs to continue to cultivate in order to prosper further. To learn more about this specific charity, please visit www.everysinglesole.com.
In a time of such uncertainty in the world it should be all of our objectives to play an active role in bringing stability, happiness and hope to those less fortunate. During this holiday season, please take the time to look in the mirror and ask yourself if you are doing enough.
At the top of Footyscout’s 2017 prioritisation list will be to begin collaborating with charities such as Every Single Sole to enable positive progression to this land we call one world – when realistically, we are a divided planet which needs mending.
Happy Holidays from Footyscout and may blessings be given to all.