|© FIFA/Kurt Schorrer|
|UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman and FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter in Berlin.|
By Monique Thormann and David Koch
BERLIN, Germany, 28 June 2006 – As football fans around the world took two days off from the excitement and the spirit of competition at the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany, UNICEF and FIFA – along with prominent members of the German Government and world sporting associations – met at the Olympic Stadium in the German capital to decry racial divisiveness.
UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman joined FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter and German football legend Franz Beckenbauer to pledge support for FIFA’s Fifth Annual Anti-Discrimination Days.
“Racism is a devil,” said Mr. Blatter. “There is social responsibility in football, and our game is open to everyone – all genders, all races, all cultures.
Prejudices learned in childhood
FIFA, the world governing body of football, has teamed up with UNICEF in the UNITE FOR CHILDREN UNITE FOR PEACE campaign at the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Building on this partnership, UNICEF added its voice to FIFA’s ‘Say No to Racism’ campaign.
Racism is not an innate human characteristic but rather a set of beliefs and prejudices learned in childhood, noted Ms. Veneman. “The attitudes and behaviours of children are shaped early in life and by the adults around them,” she said. “At their very heart, racism and discrimination involve demeaning and devaluing of other human beings, whether they are based on gender, race, disability or other characteristics.”
|© UNICEF Germany/2006/Koch|
|UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman (second from left) and FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter (third from left) at the ‘Say No to Racism’ press conference on the football pitch at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin.|
At the four matches on anti-discrimination days – 30 June and 1 July – national team captains will declare on behalf of all players that they “wholeheartedly reject racism or any kind of discrimination, whether on or off the field of play. Using the power of football, we can help eradicate racism from our sport and the rest of society as well.”
Football breaks down barriers
Tokyo Sexwale, a former African National Congress activist who was imprisoned with Nelson Mandela on South Africa’s Robben Island, spoke of his own convictions in the fight against racism. “The World Cup promotes world peace – a global chorus to all and sundry, loud and clear,” he said.
Speakers at the event pointed out that football is the most popular sport in the world, and that the 2006 FIFA World Cup is being watched by a third of the entire world’s population. The power of football to bring people onto a level playing field – young and old, rich and poor, and all races – is undeniable, they said.
Racism and discrimination “can lead to violence, war and in their most extreme forms, ethnic cleansing,” added Ms. Veneman. “The simple game of football, celebrated in the World Cup, can break down barriers and bring people together.”