|US women's football player
Brandi Chastain speaks at the launch of the FIFA-UNICEF alliance
for children. Behind her is UNICEF Executive Director Carol
Football: Empowering girls
Football's ability to empower children, especially girls, is one
of the sport's greatest strengths in the eyes of US football (soccer)
star, Brandi Chastain.
"The basic principles of the sport are dedication, teamwork
and appreciating the ability of each player," she explains.
"These are the things I experienced. You earn respect for your
talent while learning to respect the talent of others."
Chastain is concerned about the large number of young people who
grow up without ever playing on a sports team.
"Football teaches the players how to be leaders," she
says. "And a leader is not [always] the captain or the star
of the team, a leader is [also] someone who organizes a game, remembers
to bring the ball, or does a good job on the team."
Chastain has seen football's big impact on girls who play the sport
and is herself a role model for millions of girls she has inspired
with her outstanding performance and ability.
"Football gives girls the ability to be leaders and improves
their self-esteem," she says. "They learn that they can
be leaders, be powerful and strong and that those are perfectly
fine qualities for a woman. They learn to explore themselves through
The sport's growing popularity has broken the twin stereotypes
of football being a boy's game and the idea that sport in general
isn't for girls.
"Football games give girls the opportunity to play in public
and the encouragement to succeed," she says. "One of the
most important things high profile players can communicate to young
people is that it's okay to be afraid. We are all afraid of something
- afraid to fail or afraid to succeed. It's important for young
people to know that, and to know that they can successfully overcome
the fears that may otherwise hold them back."
Chastain, who works as a coach in her native California, believes
that a sense of overcoming the odds is particularly important for
children from disadvantaged backgrounds who face so many challenges
each day that they may feel hopeless.
"One of the most satisfying moments I have experienced in
working with young people is the look in a child's eyes when they
'get it'," she says. "Once a child understands and successfully
replicates something, they also recognize that they can learn many
new things. Showing a child how to do something is a basic action
we can all take, and it is immensely rewarding."