World Cup and Poverty: Make a Difference

By | April 19, 2010

This summer 32 nations will fight in South Africa to be named the world’s best footballing nation. This summer 63 international matches will take place in 10 top-of-the-line stadiums. This summer the entire country of South Africa will open its arms and embrace the world.

This summer 6 billion people will come together and be united as one.

A large sporting event in a developing country inevitably brings an influx money into the economy through tourism and jobs. This summer’s World Cup will contribute over $7 billion to the South African economy, generate over 400,000 jobs (20,000 for building stadia), and contribute $2.5 billion in tax income to the South African government. The $6 billion that South Africa spent on infrastructure pales in comparison to the revenue that is coming into the nation. The hurdles that South Africa has overcome to prepare for the World Cup will “send ripples of confidence form the Cape to Cairo,” claimed South African President Thabo Mbeki.

Whilst the World Cup highlights the progress that industrial Africa has made within the past few decades, it also underlines the increasing disparity within social classes in the country. The 415,000 jobs that were generated in all sectors do not make a dent in the 24.3% unemployment rate. 20,000 workers were required to build new stadiums while thousands of other jobs were spread out throughout the tourism industry. But 400,000 salaries at near-minimum wage do not require billions of dollars in revenue, so where does the money go?

The answer lies in the gulf in class between the rich and poor. It is the wealthy that benefit from such an influx in the economy, and consequently it is the poor that are left without any benefits from such large government spending.

… lives in a mud house accessible by a dirt road whose cavities deepen with each rainfall. His doorway is a short jaunt to the new stadium. “Those who’ll benefit from this are the wealthy that already have plenty in their hand,” he said, not in resentment so much as weariness. “Some people were hired to work on the stadium, but not enough. We’ve been promised a better life, but look how we live. If you pour water into a glass, you can see things moving inside.”

(from the New York Times)

Millions can barely afford even one $18 ticket that is specially priced for South African residents. Yet these millions scrounge together whatever little they have so they can fulfill their dream of attending a World Cup match. Their lack of running water, electricity, and toilets does not keep them away from the sport that they hold dear to their hearts.

The terrible plight of South Africa’s poor is shared by countless across the world.

One of the few things that brings them together is football.

Despite not having a team participating in South Africa, nearly every nation on earth will be watching. One of these is a nation whose history was greatly affected by the experiences of one Mohandas Ghandi in South Africa. This summer I’ll be going to Gandhi’s motherland to volunteer at several primary schools that are in dire need of help. These schools are home to underprivileged children, children of poor laborers who can only afford to send their kids to school until they are 8 because then the children are expected to bring their own income into the family. One particular school has only one classroom so the principal’s office is in the same room as over a hundred kids, another doesn’t have benches so children are forced to sit on the unhygienic floor, and yet another has one staff member who serves as principal, administrator, and teacher for five grades. Teachers have to deal with an extremely limited budget– so limited, in fact, that a chalkboard is the only means they have to educate the children. No books, no paper or pencils, and certainly no hands-on activities.

I figured I would somehow incorporate the World Cup into my activities when teaching the children. I plan on teaching geography based on World Cup Qualifiers and perhaps even something about teamwork with mini-games. I’ll also buy a few balls to pass out to the children.

Everyone can help to bring change into even one child’s life. Donate a football; it doesn’t have to be a Nike T90, just something from your neighborhood supermarket. It doesn’t have to be shipped overseas to some third-world country; local charities can find children who would love to have a real ball to play with. It doesn’t even have to be a football. Do something creative as there are countless underprivileged children that would appreciate even the smallest of gifts.

Football is the only sport that brings the entire world together. With the flagship of football taking place this summer, it is our duty to reach a helping hand to our brothers and sisters across the world and ensure that they enjoy it as much as we do.

Challenge yourself. How can you change the world?

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