We’ve been in country for about a week and a half and have been doing and learning a lot.
Our first stop was Cape Town, where the vibrant energy of the World Cup was contagious.
When you drive into Cape Town, the first thing you notice, besides Table Mountain, are the miles of Cape Flats townships between the airport and city center. These sprawling communities of tin roofed shacks are the result of the displacement of blacks from the city during the apartheid era. Although apartheid officially ended in 1994, the townships remain a visible representation of the long way the country has to go before reaching equitable living conditions for all its citizens.
Cape Town’s city center sits between its dominant Table Mountain to one side and the Atlantic Ocean to the other. Though a large city, this position makes it seem intimate and it was therefore impossible not to catch World Cup fever.
The recently renovated Green Point Stadium sits right on the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, where fans and tourists from around the world gather on a daily basis to watch games both in the stadium and live on big screen TV’s overlooking the ocean. FIFA has also set up Fan Fests in each city, which are constant parties where fans watch games, dance to live music and celebrate this global event.
While in Cape Town, we had an informal meeting with a few colleagues from the University of the Western Cape who are all the first doctoral candidates of the university’s Interdisciplinary Centre of Excellence for Sports Science and Development. They are all doing really exciting work using sport as an integral tool for conflict transformation, ending violence against women, supporting survivors of violence, and promoting health and education with youth. One woman is even studying the use of sport for development programming as Corporate Social Responsibility practice of South Africa’s wine making industry. Such a study goes to show you just how integral sport is to every sector in South Africa! One of our South African colleagues had also attended the Power of Sport Summit in June, so it was a great opportunity to hear his thoughts on the event and discuss the potential future of the ISDPA.
We were also excited to hear about the upcoming Sport and Development - Beyond 2010 Conference, which will be held in Cape Town in September. One of the criticisms of large scale sporting events such as the World Cup is that much effort goes into creating infrastructure for the event, but the legacy campaigns often fall short of creating lasting change in host cities and countries. The conference will focus on how to use the momentum of the World Cup to continue to support sustainable development in SA. It will be a particularly relevant conference due to the focus FIFA has put on sport for development as an aspect of the 2010 World Cup’s legacy. If you are interested in learning more about the conference or attending, contact email@example.com to learn more.
One of our powerful Cape Town experiences was a visit to the District 6 Museum in the city centre. District 6 is the name of a former inner-city residential area in Cape Town, South Africa. The area is best known for the forced removal of over 60,000 of its inhabitants during the 1970s by the apartheid regime. The District 6 museum itself is a powerful, community owned and operated museum that maintains the collective history of those who were forced out of the community in the 70’s. The success of activities such as genocide and apartheid includes not only the physical effects they have upon their victims, but also the erasure of the history and culture of a people. By maintaining the collective history and stories of the residents of District 6, the museum powerfully represents that though apartheid may have succeeded in physically removing and segregating black and colored people, it could not completely destroy their collective identity, history and culture.
Because of the World Cup, the museum had also added an exhibit focused on the importance of sport in District 6 both before and after the forced removal. The exhibit told a concurrent narrative of displacement, segregation and racism within sport during the development of the apartheid regime, as well as the vital hope and life given to communities because of sport during this time. One of the most interesting points of the exhibit was the history of Green Point Stadium, which was at one time a location of such segregation and racism in sport and is now being used as a symbol of world unity during the World Cup.
We also fortuitously stumbled upon the screening of a film at the D6 museum about the history of black football (soccer) players in the United Kingdom. The experience of the screening alone was worth it – in a tiny room at the back of the museum, we sat scrunched together with community members and random tourists in plastic chairs around a big screen TV. The event really was a fine example of the intersection of grassroots organizing and large scale international sporting events such as the World Cup. The film was really interesting and provided an informative picture of the connection between the UK’s black players and African immigrants over the past century. Seeing the screening also sparked an idea to partner with our colleagues at the University of the Western Cape and the D6 museum to screen Connie Field’s Have you Heard from Johannesburg.
While in Cape Town we also took a tour of the Cape of Good Hope – a breathtaking day trip to the southernmost point of the African continent, where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet. Driving this route truly puts into perspective the juxtaposition of extreme wealth and extreme poverty, which is more prominent than in most any other place we have ever visited. We chose a local, sustainable travel company; our tour guide was a life-long resident of the Khayelitsha township in the Cape Flats, who had a fascinating personal history. As a young man, he had been arrested and shot, but had resolved to follow a path of reconciliation in his heart and actions. He became the first black tour guide in Cape Town and now also works as a mentor for young men and boys in his township, educating them so that they do not live the same life of anger and violence that he lived for some time. He told us that today, issues have changed and now, beyond discussing reconciliation and racial tolerance, he speaks with them about drugs, violence and sexual health. Our experience with Michael was a truly poignant one and though the day included vast landscapes, baboons, penguins and one of the most gorgeous sunsets we’ve ever witnessed, it was our time with Michael and his perspective of tolerance and hope that will remain with us.
Our second stop was Johannesburg, where we have been for the past week or so. On our first full day, we led a youth forum with the FIFA Football for Hope Festival. The festival brings together 32 teams from around the world; beyond just being soccer players, these teams are all part of sport for development programs that link football to opportunities and education in areas such as health, conflict transformation, gender equity and workforce development. The forum we led was focused on giving participants to hear one another’s inspiring stories of success and hope, as well as generating a collective call to action in which the participants would create strategies for continuing to make change in their communities when they returned home. We were fortunate to have Jon McCullough – a former U.S. Soccer Paralympian and current Chair of the U.S. Soccer Federation’s board – join us as a keynote speaker and group facilitator.
MOVING is certainly a way to sum up the afternoon. Having already been involved in and been transformed by their football for development programs, all of our 65 participants were already committed to the idea of sport as a tool for social transformation and were committed to creating change in their communities. In both a large panel discussion and in smaller group breakouts we heard a number of stories of youth for whom soccer had changed their lives. These young people came from some of the most impoverished countries in the world, dealt with violence/mutilation and racism and misogyny on a daily basis, and educated others about land mines and sexual health and more, but all of them were also positive about the future and about the potential of football as a way to unite, educate and change their homes for the better.
Although we had expected all participants to speak English, we wound up having at least 7 different language groups in the room. While this made for somewhat more challenging discussion groups, it also proved the commitment and interest of all participants, who remained thoroughly engaged in conversations, even in the midst of 2-3 translations. One beautiful moment occurred in a breakout room which had 5 different languages being translated. At one time, a group of Cambodian delegates, Indian delegates, and South Africans were participating in a 3 language dialogue about the struggles in their communities. Each sentence had to be translated twice, but every participant and translator remained fully immersed in the conversations, totally moved by an interested in the stories of the international teammates.
At the end of the day, the three breakout groups reconvened to share the call to action documents they had produced. (You can catch footage of this soon on our You Tube page!) While the delegates came from across the globe and faced a variety of challenges, they agreed that Football was a source of hope and change regardless of their location or challenges. They agreed to return home to act as advocates of their international experience, to share what they learned about other cultures, to recruit more participants for their programs so that more young people would have these same opportunities, and to do so as a universal team that recognized the importance of action, education and, of course, fun!
At the end of the day, participants passed the microphone around the room, thanking us for the day’s experience and expressing gratitude for having the opportunity to both learn so much from one another, as well as to discuss ways that they could continue to grow into social change leaders. Among the most rewarding comments was when one delegate commented, “OK, we’ve been talking about all of this for 3 hours...now it’s time to ACT and do something about it!”
After Football for Hope we did get the opportunity to see to amazing World Cup games. The first was the heart wrenching Ghana vs. Uruguay at Johannesburg’s new Soccer City Stadium. The experience was surreal to say the least. 85,000 people gathered in one place to watch the match and it seemed like everyone was rooting for Ghana, the last African team in the tournament. It was incredible to see not only the continent, but much of the globe, rally behind Ghana. The game itself was perhaps the most exciting sporting event either of us has ever witnessed. With a 1-1 tie, Ghana had the opportunity to win the quarter final on a penalty kick when, at the last second of the game, a Uruguayan player illegally stopped a goal from going in with his hand. Asamoah Gyan’s penalty kick, however, hit the cross bar, sending the game into a scoreless overtime, followed by a final exciting shootout. Gyan redeemed himself by easily scoring Ghana’s first shootout goal, but it was not enough for the team, which lost the shootout 4-2. Beyond a heart wrenching loss felt by the majority of the 85,000 person crowd, the game has also raised questions about the ethics of Uruguay’s Luis Suarez, who knowingly broke the rules to stop Ghana’s final shot with his hand. To some, Suarez is a hero and an icon of professionalism who did what he had to in order to win, to others he is a villain who used an illegal move to send Uruguay to the semi finals. What do you think?
The second match we saw was the exciting Spain vs. Paraguay quarter final, in Johannesburg’s historic Ellis Park Stadium, where the Springboks won the famous rugby world cup against New Zealand in 1995 soon after Nelson Mandela’s election (now the subject of the film “Invictus”). The game was another down-to-the-wire nail biter with a number of near misses, saved penalty kicks, and beautiful team play. Ultimately, Spain was able to score with under 10 minutes left, sending them to the semi final round.
Now we look ahead to the ManUp Summit, which begins today at the University of Johannesburg. Excitement is in the air here, as well, as delegates from Sierra Leone, Liberia, the United States, and many more arrive for our opening Braii (a South African word for BBQ). We’ll be participating throughout the summit and will be leading discussions on the bystander approach, engaging athletes as advocates, integrating social change lessons into sport, and using strategic planning to create impactful social change programs. The summit will be a great opportunity to not only share Sport in Society’s message and work, but to learn a great deal from experts and activists from around the globe who are uniting for the next week to support one another in our collective mission to end violence against women and girls.