Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

World Cup 2014: When Sport Unites the Globe

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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.

Night sets over Antigua, Guatemala, at the Cerro de la Cruz (Hill of the Cross). (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)

By Bianca Brown and Reina Villanueva

Nelson Mandela once said, “Sport has the power to change the world…it has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair….” Fresh off of the World Cup finals, we find this quote particularly applicable to “futbol.” Over the past month, the World Cup brought millions of people together on an international scale to share the experience of the winning goal.

The power of an international sporting event like the World Cup is that, for a moment, the entire world is watching. Every four years, people from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, socioeconomic statuses, and geographical locations are united, passionate and informed on a common topic.

 Throughout this series, we highlighted how several countries are combating hunger and poverty while promoting gender equality, educational opportunities, and sustainable environment initiatives. What has made these countries shine is the support they have received from dedicated athletes who advocate for change. Many World Cup players have experienced the pain of hunger and used football as a way out of poverty.

As we mentioned in the first post of the series, hunger, poverty, and football have been common themes in host country Brazil since the announcement was made that it would be the backdrop for the 2014 World Cup. The irony of the massive influx of tourist money during the games amid widespread, ongoing hunger and poverty has left a sour taste in the mouths of many. Protests turned violent outside the arena following Sunday night’s final, bringing global attention to the issue.

There were valid reasons for this unrest. The last host of the World Cup, South Africa, spent around $3,9 billion on the 2010 games, including $1.3 billion in stadium construction alone. South Africans felt great pride in being the first African country to host the tournament. But that spending did little to help people in poverty in a country with one of the highest levels of economic inequality in the world. 

The world will turn again to Brazil as it hosts the Olympics in 2016, yet another chance for the nations of the world to come together again and for this emerging economic power to be in the spotlight.

An international event can be an opportunity to foster greater global understanding. The World Cup helped to provide a platform to raise awareness of how hunger and poverty affect people all over the world. We hope you’ve found this series informative and useful, and will use what you’ve learned to help spark positive change.  


« Quote of the Day: Malala Yousafzai Living on the Poverty Cliff: Tianna Gaines-Turner Tells Her Story »


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