A few months ago I wrote about a fundraiser I did with Jamie Redknapp, Eduardo and Simon Mayo to raise money for the Deloitte Street Child World Cup in South Africa. I return to the subject today because in a few hours’ time the tournament kicks off when the host nation takes on India.
To get a flavour of what is going on, go to http://www.streetchildworldcup.org – teams of former street kids from eight countries are competing in their own version of the World Cup, and drawing attention to the problems of some of the most disadvantaged children in the world.
People in the more affluent parts of the world get asked to give to good causes the whole time, and there are plenty of them. But it is always nice to see that money raised is being used properly to deliver an event as promised, and I really hope people who helped us raise the cash that night will follow the tournament through to the Final on Sunday.
Looking at the first film of the event on the website I am really beginning to regret that because of other commitments I was unable to accept the invitation of the organisers to get out there. My son Rory did his own fundraising to get to Durban as a volunteer, helping coach the South African team, and I felt a really warm paternal glow reading his blog on the website last night, especially when he said:
The best part of the experience for me so far has been something that has happened gradually over the few days I’ve been here in getting to know the South African team. I have been so impressed by their confidence and energy in social situations, both with me and the other teams (even when there is a significant language barrier to overcome). They genuinely do defy any negative stereotypes that many may have of street kids in South Africa. They are bright, funny, courageous and wonderfully outgoing.
The main reason for me volunteering was that I strongly believe in the ability of sport to create positive social change and everything about the attitudes of the South African kids has reaffirmed this belief in me. The whole team has used the focus of this competition to instil great discipline, confidence and belief in themselves. All five of the children I spoke to in detail today are planning to return to education as soon as the competition is over and the whole project along with the amazing work done by Umthombo has given them great ambition and belief. Vincent, 15, is amazingly bright, perceptive and eloquent and told me today he wants to be an engineer and really take his studying seriously when he goes back to school. The way he said it along with his general manner and attitude since I have been here only adds to my confidence that one day he will be able to fulfil his ambition.
Also, when so much attention is focused on the bad side of football and footballers, take a look at the interview with tournament ambassador Gary Mabbutt, the former Spurs and England player. The sincerity of a man putting something back in to a game that gave him so much comes through.
The event is getting enormous coverage in South Africa, while there are film crews from all eight countries making a mix of news and documentaries. I hear Blue Peter are there, and that Gabby Logan will be doing a piece on her Five Live programme today.
The UK team is also in action today and Rory reckons they start as tournament favourites because despite their tough background, they seem to be physically bigger and stronger than the other teams. But if you take a look at the video, you’ll see the signs of some good footballers. All I know is I wish I was there, and I wish them luck as the big kick-off nears.
** Buy The Blair Years and raise money for Labour http://www.alastaircampbell.org/bookshop.php.