Over the past two decades there has been an ever increasing importance placed on the role sport can play in aiding a number of different development agendas around the world. Sport transcends both language and cultural differences, having the potential to convey powerful messages of peace and development. Sport can also improve the quality of people’s lives, not only by promoting an active and healthy lifestyle, but through its core values of fair play, teamwork and respect. This makes sport a very useful tool for development agencies as it brings people together, leading to conflict resolution, inter-cultural understanding, empowerment and economic/community development.
In 2001 the United Nations (UN) formally recognised that sport could be used from the regional and community grassroots all the way to national and global levels in order to aid specific targets combatting poverty, achieving universal education and promoting gender equality. Today the UN incorporates sport into its programmes and policies across the globe, even dedicating April 6th every year to celebrate The International Day of Sport for Development and Peace. The 2030 Sustainable Development Goals describe sport as an important enabler of sustainable development and the UN day recognises the growing contribution of sport towards development and peace.
Football is seen by many as the sport which has the greatest capacity to aid development around the world. It is by far the most popular sport with nearly half the world’s population estimated to be interested in it and one fifth actively participating in the game. The World Cup, along with the Olympics, is the biggest sporting event in the world. The final of the 2014 Brazil tournament was estimated to have been watched live by more than one billion people. With 2018 being a World Cup year, the attention will inevitably again turn to the sport.
FIFA, the world’s footballing governing body, understands the responsibility it has when producing these mega sporting events. In 2010 South Africa hosted the World Cup, becoming the first African nation to do so. Although FIFA was criticised for the legacy it left behind, the World Cup did bring global attention not only to South Africa but the continent as a whole, with what was seen as a celebration of different African sporting cultures. FIFA does have its own development agendas in place, such as the Football for Hope initiative which not only raises money through charity football matches using ex-footballing legends but also promotes the game in the less economically developed “FIFA nations”, believing the sport can be used as a tool to break down barriers to social development and inspire entire communities.
Football is by far the most popular sport in East Africa, in particular the three countries in which COCO works. The Schools for Life programme offers children the opportunity to play team sports such as football and other recreational activities in order to create a happy and healthy lifestyle while improving skills, making friends and promoting motivation and enthusiasm both inside and outside the classroom.
As COCO was founded by athletics legend Steve Cram, it’s understandable that sport plays a huge role in COCO’s fundraising activities. There are various sporting fundraising events put on throughout the year that y