Skip to main content

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.


Popular posts from this blog

Post-UNOSDP - Is the IOC fool's gold?

This is a longer version of an article published on
With the United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace closed down by the global body, there is undoubtedly a void in this space in which many of us here work.
But, for all the high profile oomph the UNOSDP added to the world of sport for good, it’s passing need not be seen as devastating.
For one, the work the UNOSDP has already done in its 16 years of life has laid a platform for the development of sport for social justice. While many of us knew for years that sport had a wider purpose beyond mere business or entertainment, the UNOSDP has provided a base of credibility that may have otherwise taken much longer to establish.
While much of the work is, in many ways, still to be done, the UNOSDP has left a positive legacy on which we can all build.
More problematic is the shifting of the UNOSDP’s brief to the IOC.
Obliging the IOC to administer to the peace and development facets of modern sport raises three qu…

Statement on Funding for the Rohingya Football Club

We are very pleased to announce that The Kick Project has received a $AUD16,500 donation from the Australian Government to fund a pilot soccer program with Rohingya refugees in Malaysia. The funds, coming through the Australian High Commission in Malaysia, will allow the charity to support the Rohingya Football Club which has become a vital part of the exiled Rohingya community in Kuala Lumpur. The program entails kitting out the team, providing transport to games and establishing a sports and community hub where Rohingya people can access sporting equipment and coaching. Young people, and girls in particular, are the long term focus of the initiative. The Kick Project founder James Rose says the Rohingya are in dire need of assistance. "The UN has called the Rohingya arguably the most persecuted group in the world. They've been forced to flee their homelands in Myanmar, where they have been made stateless by government decree, and many have lost their lives as a result." As r…

Playing for Positives: How Pro Sport and Good Causes Can Work Together

Interesting read from The New Yorker on the authority and power invested in professional athletes, in relation to influencing the progress of social justice.

The focus here is on American sports, but the theme can be easily extended to other sports, worldwide.

It's perhaps no surprise perhaps that the rise of pro sports as a massive industry in its own right, with the parallel gains for individuals in money and celebrity terms, that more athletes don't speak out about important issues. There's clearly a lot at stake, and a lot to lose for those who step off the tightly managed corporate line running through most large sports organisations and clubs.

But, the fact that a large percentage of today's professional athletes come from simple backgrounds, if not from situations of outright poverty and/or abuse, begs the question of why don't more speak up about the circumstances that they escaped from and in which some of their peers in youth remain ensconced?

The Kick P…