FIFA's Football for Hope Movement
Football is in crisis. Adidas, Visa and Coco-Cola are among the sponsors expressing their concerns over FIFA opening their annual congress following the arrests of senior officials on corruption charges.
The news is expected to dominate the front and bank pages of the papers for days…running into extra time before the real penalties are handed out. Taking a sub bench as the frenzy plays out we fill our half time interview by paying attention to a FIFA field which is rarely tackled by the national media…The Football for Hope Movement.
‘Not about disability but ability’ runs the headline on the Football for Hope Movement page on FIFA’s website. Its vision is to “develop the game, touch the world and build a better future” A sentence which you wouldn’t expect to hear this week relating to the beautiful game!
In December 2005 FIFA built a partnership with the Special Olympics kicking off pilot programmes in Namibia, Tanzania and Botswana. Boosting awareness about the sport in African countries FIFA wanted to involve as many people as possible, especially those segregated from sporting activities.
Recruiting 60 coaches and 500 intellectually disabled players the initial stages of the project was a success. Statistics from the World Health Organisation reveal 3% of the global population have an intellectual disability which is detected by an IQ level below seventy.
Head of the African region for the Special Olympics, Dr John Dow Jr said: "The coaches got excellent training and excellent skills training for athletes. The families have got involved and it has created such a positive programme that FIFA have decided to add more countries. My hope is that through sport and exposure, we can change the attitude and the world."
Chairperson for Special Olympics Athletes Congress, Ephram Mohlakane added: "People will start to give us a lot of respect, and they will see that they (intellectually disabled people) are people like them. I want to thank FIFA for supporting us. It is not about disability but about ability and I hope the Special Olympics grows. People who have intellectual disabilities are also people, and through your support, you give us power."
South Africa, Cameroon, Benin, Ghana, Rwanda, Mauritius and Côte d'Ivoire launched similar initiatives in 2007.
In 2014 the Football of Hope festival took place in Caju, Rio de Janeiro bringing together 32 delegations from the charity across the world…Without a single corruption charge!