FIFA president Sepp Blatter at the launch of the inaugural Football For Hope Forum in Vanderbijlpark, about 80km from Johannesburg (ATR/Panasonic:Lumix)

World football’s governing body can do more than the United Nations to change people’s lives, according to FIFA president Sepp Blatter.

Blatter made the remark while officially opening the inaugural Football for Hope Forum. The three-day summit has brought together 100 international experts in social development through football in Vanderbijlpark, South Africa.

Also addressing delegates were 2010 FIFA World Cup Organizing Committee chair Irvin Khoza, special adviser to the UN secretary general on sports for development and peace, Willi Lemke,  and former South African national team captain Lucas Radebe.

Introduced to delegates by FIFA’s communications chief, Hans Klaus, Blatter spoke about the world’s “fascination with the ball” and its ability to bring happiness to the disadvantaged.

He recounted reaction following the unveiling last October of the FIFA-renovated Faisal Al-Husseini Football Stadium in Al-Ram, between Ramallah and Jerusalem, where the first ever international fixture between the Palestinian and Jordanian football teams was played.

“The next day the Swiss ambassador in Tel Aviv told me that on the international exchange of diplomatic notes, it was said that football had done more than the United Nations… with a single match because it had given to the Palestinians, their national identity,” Blatter told delegates Tuesday.

“National identity through a national anthem played at an international football match.”

Lemke told the forum that before his address, Blatter had reminded him FIFA was more effective than the UN because, apart from having more member nations, when it decides something “it gets done”.

FIFA World Cup Organizing Committee chair Irvin Khoza was among the speakers at the forum (ATR/Panasonic:Lumix)

The forum aims to use the power of football and work alongside global corporations and development institutions to find new solutions to social issues, including landmines in Cambodia, homelessness in England, ethnic conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina and HIV and Aids education in South Africa.

“Through the Football for Hope Movement, FIFA supports organizations that consciously use the appeal and attraction of football to promote social development, education, health and integration,” Blatter said.

“It is the key element to develop projects on the ground, in which football is the common denominator.”

Lemke, a former key management figure at German football club Werder Bremen, welcomed Football For Hope’s inclusive nature “using the positive values of sports to contribute to the achievement of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in Africa and beyond.”

Rabebe said: “Football is much more than just a game here in Africa; when it is combined with health and education it can make the difference in a child’s future. What we learn at the forum will help organizations that work every day to improve social

issues here in Africa and around the world.”

Blatter: There is No Place in Football for Racism

Blatter, continuing on his packed schedule, turned his attention to racism in football at the FIFPro Africa Division Congress, reaffirming his often-stated view that it should not be tolerated.

“A red card is not enough, economic sanctions are not enough,” Blatter is quoted by wire service sapa as saying. “When there is evidence of racism on the field of play… there is only one sanction, the reduction of points or elimination from the competition.”

Blatter said the day the world understood there was “one race, the human race”, racism would be eradicated.

His comments came as FIFPro showcased its campaign against racism with the theme “Show Racism the Red Card”. The campaign uses the influence of professional footballers to relay an anti-racism message to youth.

The organization has produced a DVD

featuring world-class footballers including Frenchman Thierry Henry, Rio Ferdinand of Manchester United and Chelsea’s Didier Drogba.

The “no to racism” message will be highlighted at the U.S. v Spain semi-final of the Confederations Cup. The 2008 European champions made it to the last four after beating South Africa (Getty Images)

The issue will be highlighted again at the two semi-finals of the Confederations Cup in South Africa. The U.S. plays Spain today, with Brazil meeting South Africa Thursday.

Before kick-off, the team captains will read a declaration to encourage players, officials and fans around the world to say “no to racism”, not only in football but in society. Both teams and the match officials will pose together with a banner displaying the “Say no to Racism” message.

“Football is a mirror of society and unfortunately, even in this modern age, our game is still blighted by scourges such as racism,” Blatter said. “However, football has the power to unite players and coaches, binding them together through the values of discipline and mutual respect.

“We say no to racism but equally we say yes to solidarity, respect and tolerance, the basic values of our game. There is no place in football for racism.”

Tokyo Sexwale, Minister of Human Settlements, South African human rights activist and member of the FIFA Committee for Fair Play and Social Responsibility, said FIFA’s initiative alone would not eradicate the problem.

“It is as a South African and as an international freedom fighter that I have accepted the challenge to make a common cause with FIFA’s fight against racial intolerance,” he said in a statement.

“It is clear that this initiative will not solve the problem in general but it sends a clear message.”

FIFA Anti-Discrimination Days are held to highlight this message in front of a global audience of millions. FIFA held its first Anti-Discrimination Day on July 7, 2002 following a resolution against discrimination passed at the FIFA Congress in Buenos Aires in 2001.

Written by Anthony Stavrinos

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