The World Cup Effect: Hope Through a Level Playing Field

14176841796_a3424cdc5c_oThe Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) World Cup. There is nothing like it in the world of sports.

Thirty-two countries. Six continents. One sport.

When it comes to global popularity, not even the Olympics match the fervor and fame of the World Cup. It is truly global in representation, viewership and scale.

Every four years it is noted that soccer (or football depending on your origins) is the great global equalizer. An event where wealth, ethnicity, politics and history is put to the side, and all that matters is what happens on the field of play. There’s something beautiful about that idea. Some call it utopian. I think it sounds like justice.

A World Cup is the sort of common project that otherwise barely exists in modern societies.”  ― Simon Kuper

At Food for the Hungry (FH), our vision statement declares that “God called and we responded until all physical and spiritual hungers ended worldwide.” When I imagine what that day might look like, an important element is justice. A society where men and women, old and young, of all different ethnic backgrounds and languages have a fair shot at a life of hope and love. A level playing field where we all have the opportunity to experience God’s love and grace in our own unique ways.

I think the FIFA World Cup is a great image of this hope. The outcome of each game is determined upon the collective will, effort, talent, discipline and wisdom of a community of people. The team that is able execute consistently throughout the tournament is the victor. No handicaps. No special advantages. No inequality.

The thing about football – the important thing about football – is that it is not just about football.”  ― Terry Pratchett, Unseen Academicals

Kenya 2011 055One of the things I love about the work of FH is the way in which we seek to “level the playing field” for the most vulnerable communities around the world. When I visited Marsabit, Kenya a few years ago, I was inspired by the way FH was walking with nomadic pastoralists to help bring their livestock to market.

For generations these roaming communities had not participated in local and regional commerce, because they did not know how to join. FH in partnership with a coalition of partners and the Kenyan authorities helped create marketplaces that would directly connect livestock farmers in the vast desert regions of Kenya with the thriving commercial arteries of the country.

Now, these pastoralists can receive fair prices for their livestock. This allows them to send their children to school rather than out into the desert to tend their herds. It offers opportunity to thousands of people who were reserved to the notion that they must roam the desert just as their ancestors have always done.

This is only one example of how FH seeks to equalize the playing field for the most vulnerable people in the world. Connecting people to opportunity and hope.

Sport has the power to inspire and unite people.” – Nelson Mandela

Access to markets. Access to education. Access to opportunity. We want to see people thrive. By inspiring hope and walking with communities, we see a path toward ending poverty. This year, if you plan to enjoy the World Cup in Brazil, think about the beauty and justice involved with bringing the soccer world together on a level playing field. And the potential in doing the same for the poor.

About David Curtis

David is passionate about two things: Walking with the poor, and the New England Patriots. His interest in understanding and advocating for the poor began while spending the summer in rural South Africa, where he worked alongside a fellow 19 year old at an orphanage. The juxtaposition of life as a privileged American, with that of a determined yet struggling friend and peer from the Global South, began the trajectory of a calling to walk with the poor. Since then he has spent time working in South Africa, Indonesia and Haiti. David graduated from Calvin College as a Social Studies Teacher, combining a passion to teach with that of learning. A potent combination that strives to bring "Mutual Transformation" to the world. Go Pats!

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