Friday, August 21, 2009

Where were you on the 31st July 1966?

I'm not a football fan, but the sense of excitement watching the World Cup final between England and Germany, which went into overtime, on that sunny summer Saturday afternoon has never left me. I was at the house of a school friend in the leafy green sleepy town of Harrogate, back in the days when I could take off for the afternoon on my bike, no questions asked.

The years and other World Cups slipped by without my noticing. It was only in 2002 that I became aware of the international soccer tournament again, this time because I was watching in the compound of UNTAET - the UN mission to East Timor. There were supporters for every team in the audience around the TV screens, always someone ready to cheer on their countrymen. I managed to repeat that experience while working in DR Congo in 2006, surrounded by MONUC peacekeepers.

In 2010 the World Cup will be held in South Africa. Hundreds of thousands of South African children will be watching the matches at the stadiums and at home on television. That thrill and exhilaration will be something to remember for the rest of their lives.


Football for Peace: teenage girls and boys from different villages get ready to play in South Kivu, DR Congo, 22nd September, 2007. Most children in African countries play in their bare feet using a football made from plastic bags tied up with bits of string.

The girls' team with their coaches.

The boys' team is ready to play.

Only one of these girls is wearing football boots.

Opposing girls' teams line up: note the state of the pitch!

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