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A tournament without referees, Football for Hope

sports Updated: Jun 29, 2010 01:00 IST
Dhiman Sarkar

Their rage at the first available FIFA official and the language in which the anger was articulated made understanding Bill Shankly’s comment of football being more important than life and death easier.

It also explained why most of the media emptied out of a room where a FIFA press conference was being held, once the Football For Hope Festival came to be discussed.

That, after all, deals with issues like AIDS, teenage pregnancies, a child’s right to education, alcohol and drug abuse among children, homelessness in the United Kingdom and integrating refugees into the Australian mainstream — all through football.

Football For Hope is a FIFA programme, started in 2005, where disadvantaged children are taught ways of a better life through the game they love.

The Football For Hope Festival will be held in the township of Alexandra from July 4-10 where 32 mixed teams of boys and girls from all confederations under FIFA will take part in a five-a-side tournament.

Among them are Magic Bus from India, a combined team of children from the Balkans and one put together by Israel and Palestine (The Peace Team). The third team from Asia is the Spirit of Cambodia and comprises players affected by landmines.

There will be no referees here because their absence encourages the children’s personal development and mutual understanding.

“The time has come that football makes an impact in the lives of people,” said Lucas Radebe, a project ambassador.

“Many of us have become role models through football and many kids are looking up to us so it only makes sense that we are involved in some kind of community development.”

Growing up in a poor area in Soweto, Radebe said the only way was to play to succeed.

He ended up becoming a central defender who led Leeds United in the English Premier League and South Africa.