Activists use the World Cup to address social issues09 July 2014


As the main event enters its closing stages, numerous social development and sporting programmes have been using the publicity and heightened public interest in the World Cup to deliver their own football initiatives in impoverished communities.

Sport for development
On 15 June, the London-based Football Beyond Boarders held the Favela World Cup,  in Alto de Ondina, a slum in Salvador da Bahia, in the North East of Brazil.

“I haven’t got a ticket for any of the games so it’s great that this tournament will give me a chance to be a part of the excitement and drama of the World Cup.”, said Alberto Guilherme from Alto de Ondina.

The initiative was part of the group’s self-funded legacy projects in Brazil, which has included a Talk.Play.Learn football based English language programme and a system of accommodating international fans with families in the favela during the month of the World Cup.

To Caitlin Fisher, former Santos and USA national team player, the excitement of the World Cup is helping to expose some of the country’s most well-routed prejudices and stereotypes and allowing groups to work on them.

Alongside Brazil’s former women’s captain Aline Pellegrino and the photographer Adriene Grunwald, Caitlin funded the Guerreiras Project, a team of 11 ambassadors that promote free football workshops among girls in underprivileged communities, as they address the topics of gender equity and female empowerment.

“We do this because people need to know about Brazil’s reality, people think there is a lot of support [for women’s football] because of Marta” explained Caitlin.

“In 2012, we went to a football school and the team was mixed but had only four or five girls playing. Later in November, when we went back the team’s manager told us that the workshop worked so well that the girls asked him to found a girl’s only team. Today, a total of 20 girls are playing in that school and shows us that we can help bring about a change”.

Sport for inclusion
The sport for development sector consists of a wide range of sports and NGOs that address an equally wide range of social issues.

In Brazil, the Brazilian National Committee for Refugees revealed that the country is currently home to 5, 208 refugees from 79 nationalities, with Colombians and Angolans forming half of that total number.

During the World Cup two football tournaments, in São Paulo, are addressing the issues around the social inclusion of refugees and asylum seekers. On 2 July, the city organised a World Cup for refugees. The tournament was was initially aimed to be a play between six mens teams, but ended up with women from Syria and other countries also taking part.

Later in August (2-3), refugees from 16 countries will play in a second tournament that will celebrate the different cultures of each.

“First we wanted to bring the largest number of refugees together and make new friendships. Then, we wanted to show to the Brazilians that we exist, that we left our countries to save our lives.” explained Uchen Henry, a 21 year-old Nigerian and one of the tournament’s organisers.

The event, which was supposed to kick-off during the mega event, was postponed for after the Ramadan as 90% of its participants are muslims.

Larissa Leite, coordinator of the tournament, stressed the event will point out some measures that need to be changed in the country to include refugees in the Brazilian society,including professional guidance and language learning tools.

Other initiatives planned to the end of the World Cup

The German organisation for international cooperation GIZ is running a series of football tournaments and workshops in Rio’s favela of Morro dos Prazeres to discuss the issues around environment, culture of peace and gender among the community’s youngsters.

12 June – 13 July 

Polish Fare member NEVER AGAIN Association is holding daily screenings of the World Cup matches alongside with other activities, including football quizzes, table football tournaments and presentations in celebration of the event.

During the period, the antiracist exhibition “Let’s kick racism out of the stadiums” will be on display at Municipal Stadium in Gdynia.

23 June– 13 July

The Fare member Discover Football organised a series of initiatives, including a multimedia exhibition, a international forum and a football training camps, to promote women’s football and female empowerment.

02 – 10 July

In Caju, a district of the North Zone of Rio de Janeiro, FIFA is hosting the Football for Hope festival, which brings together 32 delegations of youngsters to play football and exchange experiences.

06 July

Last Sunday, the Comitê Popular Copa SP, a group of social movements against the 2014 World Cup, its cost and human rights violations committed as part of its organisation, hosted in São Paulo the fourth edition of the Copa Rebelde dos Movimentos Sociais.

Earlier in June, the Comitê organised a tournament to raise awareness of the impact of the World Cup among the homeless.

07 – 12 July

In São Paulo, the Street Soccer World Cup is bringing together over 250 youngsters from 19 countries across the world, all linked to movements seeking social change, to celebrate football’s integration power. The week-long tournament is held every four years in one of the World Cup’s host cities.

10 – 17 July

Between 10 -17 July, thirteen indigenous groups of the Brazilian state of Acre will come together for the I Copa das Árvores to play football, among other sporting activities, and highlight the rights and living habits of the indigenous communities.

Fair-Play – VIDC

Fare member Fair-Play – VIDC launched an initiative, in Austria, to highlight football’s positive values and enlighten the country on human rights in the context of major sport events, stereotypes and helping the integration of the Brazilian community in the country.

Information about workshops and other events can be found at

The organisation is also asking people to sign a petition calling on the Brazilian Government, FIFA, International Olympic Committee, Austrian Olympic Committee and Football Federation to comply with employment rights in the Brazil’s mega sporting events.