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Reflecting on the power of football at the first World Cup in the Middle East
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Generation Amazing, the human and social legacy programme of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, is demonstrating the power of football in bringing change to human lives.

On 1 April 2022, football fans around the globe waited anxiously for the men’s football FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022TM draw, held at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Center in Qatar. As the draw ended, reflections on the groupings noted the absence of a fourth team in some of the groups, in particular Group B which awaits qualifying play-off matches to be completed between Ukraine, Scotland and Wales.

This immediately reminded the audience of the Russia-Ukraine war and the global socio-economic repercussions emanating from disruption of peace in one part of the world. Has football got the power to positively influence the shape of this geopolitical conflict? Since the war started, the world of sport has strongly added its voice to the crisis in Ukraine.

This week, almost a week away from the glamourous occasion in Doha, on 6 April, the world observed the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace (IDSDP) 2022. The global theme for this year is ‘Securing a Sustainable and Peaceful Future for All: The Contribution of Sport,’ focusing on how sport can be a platform to support sustainable development, inclusive societies, and a more peaceful future for all.

This year’s theme reminds those working within the sport industry to authentically evaluate their social responsibility to secure our future by fostering peace for all, using sport as part of the solutions to conflict and other global challenges such as climate change.

Searching for evidence

Questions challenging the lack of evidence to demonstrate the attribution to sport of the claims made regarding the role sport has played to achieve various forms of development remain. For example, has football been an effective platform or tool to influence changes at macro and micro levels to support the promotion of safer and more peaceful communities?

Since the Black Lives Matter movement, the world has observed football governing bodies (FIFA or UEFA) and some of their member associations take a firm stance on racism in wider society, which has equally manifested its ugliness within community football fields, elite football stadia and other football related activities. The question remains whether football, as part of the sport for development and peace movement, is doing enough to demonstrate the power of sport to bring about change in our lives, be it human needs related to psychosocial wellbeing, mental wellbeing, homelessness, food poverty, displacement, etc.

Promoting peace and humanitarian values

One such programme is Generation Amazing (GA), the human and social legacy programme of the Supreme Committee for the Delivery and Legacy (SC), the organizing committee of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022TM. GA is now a standalone foundation, focused on continuing to roll out this legacy to the world.

Internationally, GA has forged strong partnerships with global football governance bodies as well as global humanitarian agencies such as the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC), CONCACAF and the FIFA Foundation, as well as countless grassroots stakeholder organizations. GA’s initiatives have a global reach through its partners in over 35 countries, which have positively impacted the lives of over 725,000 people through programming, such as GA’s Football4Development (F4D) programme, and Generation Amazing Community Clubs (GACCs) which act as safe spaces for internally displaced people and disenfranchised groups. GA has also constructed more than 34 pitches globally.

GA was established by the SC in 2010 to ensure that the legacy of the World Cup was not limited to just the State of Qatar. This vision has developed into an adaptable framework, which can be used for people who are most at risk.

For example, during the Afghan Evacuee crisis, the State of Qatar stepped in to ensure the safe passage of thousands of evacuees. GA demonstrated its willingness to offer help to those in need of it the most. A defining moment in the crisis was the repurposing of facilities that were constructed to host delegations to the World Cup, which during the crisis have served as a safe space for the Afghan evacuees. The state of Qatar has used the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022TM facilities to extend the nation’s humanitarian values to the current crisis the region continues to face.

Human-rights approach superseding other outcomes

At the core of this humanitarian effort has been the Generation Amazing Foundation, which mobilized partner agencies and volunteers to leverage the power of football and its associated infrastructure to provide a peaceful dwelling for people evacuated from Afghanistan’s conflict zones. GA used its football-for-development curriculum to meet the needs of the Afghan evacuees as the organisation attempted to augment the immeasurable humanitarian effort of Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. GA has been the cockpit from which the creation of safe spaces for families and unaccompanied minors has been generated as it took leadership in the setting up of a nursery.

The nursery has been an interactive environment for young boys and girls to learn through storytelling and art workshops, while offering psychosocial support and respite care for Afghan adults. Through the support and dedication of Maktaba Children’s Library (Qatar) and many more local and international partners, GA has supported several young people and adults from Afghanistan via safe spaces to recover, rebuild and establish new social networks during their transitory phase in Qatar.

As we celebrate IDSDP 2022, let us place humanity at the core of our social intervention designs, utilising co-creation opportunities to foster co-existence in sustainable and more peaceful surroundings. This example of the power of Qatar’s use of sport demonstrates that humanitarian needs superseded sporting outcomes and other benefits associated with hosting a sporting mega-event.

Authors:

Davies Banda – University of Edinburgh

Nasser Al Khori – Generation Amazing Programmes Director

Tags

Country
Qatar
Region
Middle East
Sport
Football (Soccer)
Sustainable Development Goals
16 - Peace, justice and strong institutions.
Themes
Target Group
Policymakers

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