While football fans across the globe look forward to this weekend’s FIFA World Cup Final in Johannesburg, members of Emirates’ cabin crew have focused on a whole new ball game - one designed to deliver long-term benefits for South Africa.
The Football for Hope centre, in the township of Khayelitsha, is funded by FIFA and the six Official FIFA Partners – of which Emirates is one. The project aims to use football for positive social change and earlier this week, four of Emirates’cabin crew visited the centre to find out more about the project.
Carolina Rodriguez from Argentina, Joanna Boyd from New Zealand, Vivienne Seiler from Canada and Claire Overton from the UK, met with the volunteers who are helping to make a difference to the lives of children in the township through a shared love of football. The centre is run by Grassroot Soccer which uses the power of soccer in the fight against HIV and AIDS, providing youth worldwide with the knowledge, life skills and support to live healthier lives.
Working with the community in Khayelitsha, the centre has a curriculum which focuses on building basic life skills that help boys and girls adopt healthy behaviours and live risk-free. Through a series of interactive activities and discussions students gain a tangible understanding of HIV and AIDS.
Vivienne Seiler said: “The kids’ enthusiasm for the beautiful game radiates through their smiles. People young and old will benefit greatly from the Football for Hope centre and it is humbling to see how much this means to the community. It is important to invest in young people and give them the opportunity to reach their full potential. I think this centre is the perfect launch pad to achieve that.”
The Football for Hope centre in Cape Town is the first of 20 centres to be built throughout Africa as part of the legacy of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The aim of each centre is to promote public health, education and football in disadvantaged communities across the country, and the centre in Cape Town is already having a major, positive impact on the township.
Abigail Smith, from Grassroot Soccer, said: “Since the centre opened in December, we have had hundreds of children and adults from the area come to use the facility. We have a fantastic turf pitch, which is the main attraction and the driving force of our social engagement, but we have a strong education programme in place which particularly focuses on educating the members of the community about HIV and AIDS. The Grassroot Soccer model has proven to be both successful and sustainable for communities, as we use the popularity of football, especially here in South Africa at the moment, to increase our impact.
She added: “It was fantastic that the Emirates crew were able to come and visit the centre and see what Emirates has helped to deliver, through their sponsorship of the FIFA World Cup.”
The Emirates cabin crew were given a tour of the facility and met with some of the children who were making the most of the facility during their school holidays. UK-born Claire Overton enjoyed the experience, saying: “The Football for Hope Centre provides children from Khayelitsha with the opportunity to channel their focus on to something constructive, be it football or education. This will benefit the community in the long run as the youth of Khayelitsha and the surrounding communities will be able to develop their skills in a safe environment.”
Carolina Rodriguez added: “I used to be a volunteer back home in Argentina, where I helped underprivileged kids. People don’t realize how much of a difference any financial support makes to these children. A little goes a long way. The Football for Hope Centre is located near the local children’s homes, providing them with a safe environment in which to play sport and be educated.”
New Zealander Joanna Boyd summed up the experience on behalf of her colleagues saying: “This was a truly brilliant experience. Projects like these give the underprivileged communities the opportunity to feel part of the 2010 FIFA World Cup and the legacy will last for a long time to come”.