World Cup 2014: Lucky in Soccer, Lucky in Life
Bread for the World's World Cup series will use the occasion of the Cup to focus on the great advances many of the participating countries and players have made in fighting hunger and poverty. Each day, until the end of the tournament, we will highlight a country, or an individual player, that is making a difference.
By Reina Villanueva
If the World Cup had a yearbook, Nigeria and Algeria might have been voted “The Teams Least Likely to Advance.” However, both countries unexpectedly held their own against legendary teams such as Germany and Argentina to advance to today’s Knockout Round match. Some might say that they were simply lucky. But luck is nothing new for team captains Madjid Bougherra of Algeria and Joseph Yobo of Nigeria. Both star players know that they have not only been lucky in soccer, but also in life.
With 61 percent of households in Nigeria living in hunger and poverty, Joseph Yobo was one of the lucky few to grow up with access to running water, electricity, and an education. However, this was not the reality for many of his neighbors.
“When I went to the homes of abandoned kids and those living with HIV/AIDS, I was close to tears and begin to appreciate how lucky some of us are in the world,” Yobo told BBC in 2007. “I see myself as someone who is privileged enough to be able to help elevate others who are not so fortunate.”
This realization is what pushed Yobo to start his own charity foundation. The Joseph Yobo Charity Foundation has provided food, mattresses, and scholarships to needy children in the soccer player’s hometown.
Like his opponent, Bougherra has used his fame to help the impoverished children of his home country of Algeria. Spurred by his own humble upbringings, the Algerian team captain became a UNICEF Ambassador in 2011.
“A player has to use his image to do positive things, because football is a great sport played by millions of people around the world,” explained Bougherra. “Personally, I have the greatest respect for players who help develop the game and are committed to society. A lot of them were born in poor neighborhoods and feel as if they have a mission to perform, which just shows the power of the modern game today.”
Yobo and Bougherra may be unlikely soccer stars and surprising challengers in the World Cup, but they are certainly making an impact in the lives of many children living in poverty.
Reina Villanueva is an intern in Bread for the World's communications department and a senior at American University in Washington, D.C.
Photo: Madjid Bougherra passes the ball during a Qatar Stars League match. (Wikimedia Commons)
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