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World Cup 2014: Using Football to Climb Out of Poverty

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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.

Tuesday July 8: Germany v. Brazil

640px-Dani_Alves-_Scotland_vs_Brazil_Mar10Fighting for a spot in the 2014 World Cup finals, the home team of Brazil will battle it out with Germany for the first time since defeating them in the 2002 World Cup. Although both teams are legendary in the world of football, their experience of hunger is a study in contrasts.

While nearly all of Germany’s players come from upper- and middle-class family backgrounds, nearly all of Brazil’s players have used football to climb out of poverty. This is the story for Brazil’s offensive right back, Dani Alves. The son of a melon farmer, Alves spent his youth working as a farmer, trader, and waiter before rising to football stardom. By partnering with charities that deal with health, housing, and education, Alves has helped prevent other children from experiencing the same disparity that he faced as a child. 

“My commitment to charity work, especially with the neediest, allows me to give back some of the warmth and positivity that I receive on a daily basis,” wrote Alves on his website. Through individual efforts such as his, and collective efforts such as the Zero Hunger Initiative and The Organic Law of Food and Nutritional Security, Brazil has been slowly rising out of extreme poverty.

Despite having a comparatively privileged upbringing, Germany’s players have also encountered hunger. When discussing why he engages with charity work, German captain Philipp Lahm confessed that he was “shaken” by his visit to South Africa in 2007 to see the country that would host the 2010 World Cup and the poverty he saw there.

"I grew up in Munich with all the advantages that a good environment and family backing can give a child. I had a great start to life and got support all along the road to success as a professional footballer. Now I want to help others who haven’t been as lucky as I have." Soon after his trip, Lahm founded the Philipp Lahm Foundation which supports initiatives in both Germany and South Africa.

While each individual may differ in their personal experience with hunger, it is still a collective problem. Alves and Lahm show us that no matter what our socioeconomic backgrounds may be, we can all be part of the solution.

Photo:  Dani Alves (Wikimedia Commons).


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