What if football could be much more than a game?

Alban Herinckx - A World of Football
07 June 2018
I've always been a football fan. But my passion has its limits. It stops where football, the sport we see every day on television, slips into corruption, violence, racism... and a game where money is king. However, I know that this sport has extremely powerful values. Universal values. Values that we wanted to demonstrate by making documentaries about unique projects using the round ball as a means of integration and by founding the ‘A World of Football’ (AWOF) project with four friends in 2012.

Who?

Alban Herinckx, President and Co-founder of the non-profit association ‘A World of Football’

What?

An association that promotes the social power of football as a means of integration and development worldwide

Why?

Football is the world's number 1 sport. Accessible to all, it can also change lives and spread strong values among young people, in all communities, when traditional institutions fail.

A World of Football

AWOF is a real human adventure. A world tour of football in all its guises. Armed with our camera and our football boots, we set out to find people and organisations who use football for social development in their community.  This exceptional journey took us to around forty countries across the world. Often, our verbal communication was limited to exchanging the names of our most famous international players. But everywhere, we noticed the same emotions and smiles when the ball was in play. We didn't need to speak the same language or have the same life to play together. Tibetan monk, Brazilian prisoner, New York banker or young Palestinian, we all play in the same way.

By making a documentary clip on each of these projects, we wanted not only to raise public awareness, but also to help such organisations grow by inspiring the launch of other projects elsewhere. The 20 AWOF films were broadcast on the RTBF channels during the 2012 and 2016 European Championships.

Everywhere, we noticed the same emotions and smiles when the ball was in play. We didn't need to speak the same language or have the same life to play together.

Everyone together     

One of the most memorable steps in this journey was when we arrived in Palestine to meet our first association. Young girls from the village of Yata were, for the first time, going to cross the wall that separates them from Israel for a special match with young Israeli girls. This was the first time that they would meet girls from the other community. Until then, everything had separated them and we could feel a terrible tension when the two groups arrived on the pitch. But after fear, came emotion when the first smiles were exchanged at the same time as the first passes. Since then, they have regularly gathered around this same passion. And I am sure that during their lives, despite the hate that surrounds them, they will remember that on this football pitch, they weren't so different.

We have been fortunate enough to come across many other equally strong projects around the world where football is clearly involved in development and integration. Whether it is the reintegration of child soldiers in Uganda or in a Syrian refugee camp, AIDS prevention in South Africa or the emancipation of women in India... We have also had the pleasure of kicking the ball around in the finest stadiums in the world. We will certainly remember the match with an entire Maasai tribe at the foot of Kilimanjaro, the one against Buddhist monks in the courtyard of a temple in the middle of the Himalayas and even the floating pitch in a Thai fishing village. Football united us in each of these instants.


 

Pour nous, il est donc indéniable que le football détient un potentiel unique. Un potentiel qu’il serait dommage de ne pas utiliser à des fins sociales et éducatives.

For us, it is therefore undeniable that football has a unique potential. A potential that it would be a shame not to use for social and educational purposes. But like any power, it can also be abused. It is above all thanks to these organisations that promote and pass on these values that football is becoming one of the leading social vectors in the world. Let's support these organisations, in Belgium and elsewhere, so that sport in general can become a real tool for development, peace and integration.

More than a game.

 

All the films are available on the website www.awof.org

 

 

Israelite and Palestinian girls play football
© AWOF
Rwandan children watch a football match
© AWOF
Tibetan monks play football
© AWOF
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