Football is the universal language of scores of millions of people
around the world, including countless children and teenagers. Young
people play in narrow, urban alleyways. They play in refugee camps.
They play in abandoned swimming pools. In car parks, war zones,
on street corners--wherever there are young people, it seems there
|Children play football at the launch
of the FIFA-UNICEF alliance at United Nations Headquarters in
But the sport is more than just a game. It's a positive lifestyle.
It's a way to promote a peaceful approach to conflict resolution.
It's a tool for wooing a young body away from the lures of drugs,
unsafe sex, or violence. It's a way to help ensure that young people
grow up healthy, fit and full of self-esteem.
And, what's more, it's a manifestation of the right to play that
the Convention on the
Rights of the Child includes as one of the fundamental rights
of all children.
The 2002 World Cup
Nothing demonstrates the reach and power of football better than
the World Cup tournament. The World Federation of Football Associations,
which is known by its French acronym, FIFA, organized the first
World Cup in 1930. The FIFA World Cup is now the most watched sporting
event in the world. In 1998, it drew more than twice as many viewers
as did the Olympic Games: An average of 33 million viewers tuned
in to the tournament and more than one billion watched the final
||FIFA President Joseph Blatter, Brazilian
football legend Pele, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and 14-year-old
Alhaji Babah Sawaneh at the launch of the FIFA-UNICEF alliance.
The 2002 World Cup, which was jointly hosted by Japan and the Republic
of Korea last June, was no less spectacular. And, for the first
time, the tournament was devoted to a humanitarian cause: children.
Several well-known World Cup players served as spokesmen for UNICEF's
'Say Yes for Children' campaign. Children and teens wearing 'Say
Yes for Children' t-shirts escorted World Cup players onto the field.
The FIFA World Cup provided an unprecedented opportunity to focus
global attention on the rights of children.
UNICEF in the field
UNICEF uses the game of football in various other ways, from helping
children recover from trauma to encouraging their physical and emotional
development. It also sees football as a valuable educational tool,
a familiar setting in which to bring potentially life-saving information
to hard-to-reach youth. In these and many other ways, football can
help young people reclaim their childhood in situations where it
has been forcibly put on hold.
In Nairobi, Kenya, young
people spend an afternoon playing football and then get a lesson
on safe sex and HIV from peer educators.
In Brazil, UNICEF programmes
integrate sports into curricula for extended school days.
||In Senegal, these young girls celebrate
In Afghan refugee camps,
many children are playing football for the first time in their lives.
Because the Taliban banned games, UNICEF workers are finding themselves
in the unusual position of having to explain to children not just
how to play the game but how to interact with other children, especially
children of the opposite sex.
In Ethiopia, UNICEF
supports a football league that conducts HIV/AIDS awareness activities
during half-time at matches.
In countries with FIFA chapters, the local football associations
are collaborating with UNICEF country offices to help in the areas
of education, child protection and HIV/AIDS, issues which FIFA and
UNICEF have agreed upon as priorities.
The UNICEF/FIFA partnership for the 2002 World Cup and beyond promises
to be a great opportunity to use football to build a better world