Soccer, Futbol by Any Other Name Still Helps

Darfur United team. Photo:

Darfur United team. Photo:

The world is super energized by the FIFA World Cup these days, with the most popular sport inspiring fans around the globe.

Just like rejecting the metric system, here in the US we reject the sport’s name as well, and insist on calling it soccer–to, you know, add confusion–but no matter the vocabulary, it is a nearly universal language of sport, and also a great avenue through which we can directly help communities in need.

There is no shortage of controversy about the host nation for the World Cup glossing over extreme cultural problems, hunger, homelessness, and unrest…and we know that happens in most countries when the international spotlight is shone upon them (us as well–ask homeless cause workers what happened when Los Angeles hosted the Olympic Games).

It can also be a time to shine that great spotlight on some issues we can act upon, bringing attention and advocacy to address some, at least partially solvable, ills.

i-ACT is an organization seeking to “empower individuals within communities, institutions, and governments to take personal responsibility to act on behalf of those affected by genocide, mass atrocities, and crimes against humanity.” One of their flagship programs is Darfur United, an all-star, all-Darfuri refugee soccer team that travels internationally to play and tell their story.  The organization also has travel programs to visit the refugee camps of Chad, to open up lines of international activism. Additionally, their Little Ripples program is creating pre-school programs for this population exposed to severe trauma. Volunteer opportunities as well as ways to support are varied and vital–check them out.

So it’s not just painting faces and screaming until we are hoarse–the world of soccer can open up eyes to issues that truly must be recognized and addressed within our global family.

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