Alexandra gears for Football for Hope

26 March 2010

During the final week of the 2010 Fifa World Cup™, 32 teams from across the globe will converge on Alexandra township in Johannesburg for a very different festival of football. On Thursday, the 2010 Football for Hope Festival site was officially inaugurated.

From 4 to 10 July, in a specially built stadium in the heart of Alexandra, mixed teams of boys and girls aged 15 to 18 will compete in a fast-paced tournament – part of a broader festival of education, culture and football – to be crowned 2010 Football for Hope world champions.

“For the first time, the social dimension of the game will be celebrated as an official element of the Fifa World Cup,” Fifa president Sepp Blatter said in a message read out at Thursday’s ceremony. “We hope that the eyes of the world will be on Alexandra and we will create new heroes for this community.”

The young people who take part in the festival will be drawn from disadvantaged communities worldwide, and selected for their contribution to building a better future in their communities.

The names of the boys and girls who will be representing Alexandra were announced at Thursday’s inauguration. Among them is 15-year-old Thumeka Mabayi, who is relishing the chance to meet other young people from different countries during the festival.

Despite her disadvantaged background, Mabayi aspires to play a vital role in changing her community. “I’m extremely excited to be part of this,” she said. “For me, it is an opportunity to empower myself and learn more about other cultures.”

Among the guests attending Thursday’s site inauguration were 2010 Fifa World Cup Organising Committee South Africa CEO Danny Jordaan, streetfootballworld managing director Jurgen Griesbeck, and Johannesburg’s mayoral committee member for community development, Bafana Sithole.

Jordaan said that South Africans, more than most people, “understand the importance of social development and the power of sport to influence positive social change, so the Football for Hope Festival is a key initiative for us.

“The world’s best footballers will be in South Africa for the Fifa World Cup, but we believe the equally deserving footballers and incredible stories from around the world also warrant global recognition, and we encourage people to come and attend the festival in Alexandra.”

Griesbeck said the festival would be “a celebration of the people who dedicate their lives to helping others in their community, using the game we all love.”

Alexandra is one of the oldest townships in South Africa, and was one of the key areas where apartheid was fought and defeated.

While it does not enjoy the same international prestige as its Soweto, it is home to some of the country’s top leaders, and has produced some celebrated footballers, including Maimane Alfred Phiri, who played for South Africa in their first ever World Cup appearance in France in 1998.

Phiri was on hand on Thursday, along with other football celebrities such as former Bafana Bafana goalkeeper Brian Baloyi, to take part in an “All Stars” football match, with 2010 World Cup mascot Zakumi a keen spectator.

An official World Cup event, the 2010 Football for Hope Festival is being organised by Fifa, streetfootballworld, the 2010 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee South Africa, and the City of Johannesburg.

Source: 2010 Fifa World Cup South Africa Organising Committee