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The Power of Grassroots

Pic: Jessica Hilltout, taken in Burkina Faso
Not entirely sure I can say what The Economist is truly on about here. But, clearly, when that mag starts talking about football and big money, bringing in fancy stats and data, you know the business side of the world game is getting more and more prominent.
This piece in These Football Times also picks up on the increasingly powerful commercial trends in football and details the activities of Red Bull as it levers its way into European high level football - and elsewhere.
We all know its there and since at least the beginning of the EPL in 1992,  football money has gone stratospheric.
My concern is this. While the money players earn and corporations can take out of the game is a problem, the bigger problem is how the money skews the game away from its roots. Where's the money in junior football? Even more pertinent, where is the money to support struggling football leagues in developing countries and to fund youth systems? It really isn't there.
It's fine for us to marvel at the Messis, the Ronaldos and the Di Marias of the world, but unless we fertilise the grass roots, the game is undermining its own future.
I really like this series which I spotted in Al Jazeera's online mag. Beautiful pics from Jessica Hilltout (hope she doesn't mind me picking one to head this post) embody the essence of football as it is lived by those at the bottom of the football rungs, stunning images that capture the dusty poetry of  street football in Africa.
It's not just the pure joy of it all. There's a potential in the game at this level which serves the interests of peace and harmony, joy and beauty. Football can bring people together. It is a force for good when the community gets to own it.
I have been speaking with a lot of amateur junior local football  clubs here in Australia to help get things together for our Gaza project. These people are volunteers and sometimes don't even know much about the game. But they know enough about its community building and youth development abilities. This is how most of us experience football hands-on. And its more useful than many think.
For all the money in the game, maybe we should at least give these guys proper goals, decent pitches and some new balls to play with.
That's very much what we're about.


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