Hope Through Football

Incredible way to uplift the local community.

For many, football is beyond a sport. It’s passion, it’s life. Yet it’s also a way to thrive.

In Afghanistan, years of conflict, violence and desperate hardships have made life almost unbearable. Once scattered across the country, landmines have robbed thousands of their ability to do the most basic of things like being able to move around freely. While preventable childhood diseases, such as polio, have meant countless children have faced a daily struggle to simply be able to walk.

I’ve been following the work of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), through their physical rehabilitation programs across Afghanistan, adults and children alike are getting the chance to feel whole again, and for many, to play the game they love – football.

The ICRC rehabilitation center manufacture over 20,000 artificial legs, arms and other orthopedic devices every year. Over 80,000 physiotherapy sessions take place annually.

In Africa, football is influenced greatly by social, cultural, religious, economic and political factors. Sports such as football have become intimately intertwined with development issues. Individuals, organizations and companies are using sports to achieve development goals.

There are arguments that developing football through schools is perhaps a lack of priority for a country where formal education is greatly valued. It is interesting to learn that the same scenario is observed in the early medieval era where official orders were issued that sought to ban, control or restrict the game.

Indeed the prosperity of a country depends largely on the quality and spread of education, the modern-day bow. But, as the founder of The Football Foundation for Africa Brian Wesaala mentioned, we cannot underestimate the value of football (sports) in the same society; and the need for the two to co-exist in a bid to grow and develop the quality and standard of both.

The sport is more important than just viewing pleasure. Children from all backgrounds come together in the streets to play football together. Through football, as reported in Cameroon, children find ways to escape from their everyday lives, form friendships and deal with traumas.

Playing football is the only safe space some children have. Whether they are good or bad at football, it is a way for them to form healthy relationships. In addition, it is their only form of entertainment. Small villages do not have a library, a playground, or other safe places for children to play. 

One of my favorite football players Pelé once said: “Football is the only sport where you put people together, it doesn’t matter if you are rich, or poor, or black, or white. It is one nation. This is the beauty of football.” Indeed, football is not just a game, but a game-changer for thousands worldwide.