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The Potential of Sport as anImplementation Tool for the Development of Health Education Outreach in South Africa

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Sport for Development

Taking each of these theories into account, a growing body of practitioners sees sport as a vehicle to initiate health promotion and disease prevention strategies around the world. A report in the International Platform for Sport and Development (IPSD) suggested that sport has the opportunity to reach people of diverse ages and backgrounds, and it has the ability to tackle a range of issues, including:

  1. Disability: Sport has been shown to offer many positive benefits of a social, psychological, and physiological nature for people with disabilities.
  2. Economic Development: Sport can contribute to economic development by creating additional sources of income such as the manufacture of sporting goods.
  3. Gender: The recommendations outlined in the Magglingen Declaration of 2003 (http://www.icsspe.org/members/bulletin/archiv/Bulletin38/texte/6-4-magglingen.htm) refer to the need to prioritize the inclusion of women.
  4. Social Cohesion: There is potential for sport to be used as a tool to encourage peace-building or reconciliation efforts among groups in conflict.
  5. Trauma: The use of sport as a means to provide support to children and youth who experience trauma in a disaster is a new area in the field of sport and development.
    (as summarized from the International Platform for Sport and Development [IPSD], 2007)(6)

The potential for sport to address these issues has been recognized internationally. In 1978, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared that physical education and sport is a basic human right that should be enjoyed by all.

Every human being has a fundamental right of access to physical education and sport, which are essential for the full development of his personality. The freedom to develop physical, intellectual, and moral powers through physical education and sport must be guaranteed both within the educational system and in other aspects of social life. (UNESCO, 1992)

Sport has countless individual benefits. Those who participate in sport gain valuable leadership skills and experience working in teams, and research suggests that sports can help alleviate stress, increase self-esteem, and improve quality of life (Weiss, 2007). As this research suggests sport facilitates basic human thriving, it is not surprising that UNESCO has declared it a “human right” for all.

Sport also has many benefits at both community and national levels. Sport can help facilitate the economic and social development of a country. According to the IPSD, sport infrastructure in a country can provide additional jobs and further sources of income.

Sport can contribute to economic development by creating additional sources of income such as the manufacture of sporting goods, the development of sport-related services, infrastructures or sports events. In addition, sport can also produce indirect economic effects by improving the overall health of a community that is physically active thus contributing to a reduction in spending on health and increasing labor productivity. (IPSD, 2007)

According to the same platform, sport has been used to help resolve conflicts in troubled parts of the world.

There is potential for sport to be used as a tool to encourage peace-building or reconciliation efforts among groups in conflict. Sport has the potential to bring people together in ways that can cross boundaries and break down barriers, making the playing field simple and often apolitical, allowing antagonistic groups to interact and exchange, at both international and grassroots levels. As such, sport can act as an ideal forum for stimulating social dialogue and encouraging exchange. Sport can help to provide an atmosphere conducive to implementing conflict resolution and reconciliation programs. (IPSD, 2007)

Practitioners have established NGOs throughout the world to do outreach in developing countries through sport, and the number of sports projects aimed at combating HIV/AIDS has increased dramatically in recent years. Organizations such as the Grassroot Soccer, Peace Players, and Right to Play have dedicated time, money, and energy to the issue of sport and development within the past couple of decades because, as shown above, sport has the potential for lasting impacts on human and country development. In the past few years, several sports organizations have built a solid base for the use of sport as an instrument in HIV/AIDS projects. Despite this, it is noteworthy that not enough hard facts and figures are available to demonstrate clearly the impacts of these efforts.

The Current Issues

Despite declarations by United Nations White Papers that access to sport is a human right and that sport can play a positive role in development, sustainable funding for state-sponsored sport for development programs is lacking. As a result, small, community-based NGOs have had to pick up the slack. In Namibia alone, a country of only two million, there are three NGOs working with youth development through sport. In South Africa, there are more than 25. Thus, if the situation is in Southern Africa is typical, it is evident that the movement for sport as tied to development exists at the macro level only in discourse. In practice, the brunt of sports for development programs is bolstered by grassroots organizations.

Sporting events and teams cannot make people forget underdevelopment, poverty, hunger and illiteracy. Negative responses to sports initiatives in many developing countires makes this clear.. In Mexico, for example, vandals broke into a soccer stadium and painted “No queremos goles, queremos frijoles (we do not want goals, we want beans)” on a sign during soccer’s World Cup in 1986. This sentence expresses the economic dilemma that sport has to cope with in developing countries. Regardless of what is stated in the policy declarations of the government, sport is neither a top priority in the state budget nor a pillar of the health or education system in any developing country.

Lastly, grassroots NGOs have faced the issue of gender equality again and again. Sport, practitioners complain, is often seen a male thing in Africa. You won’t see a lot of girls kicking a ball around in village. Nor will women be that interested in chatting about the latest European superstars. Nonetheless, the population of women must be an important target for HIV prevention programs, as women experience even higher prevalence than men (Figure 7).

Figure 7: Women and girls as a percentage of young people living with HIV/AIDS at the end of 2003 ( UNAIDS, 2004).

Figure 7: Women and girls as a percentage of young people living with HIV/AIDS at the end of 2003 ( UNAIDS, 2004).

It is important that both males and females be reached by the efforts of sport and development NGOs.Women’s sports, and particularly soccer, are making some strides on the continent. There is an African Women’s Championship held every 2 years even though it doesn’t get a lot of publicity.

The most common complaint among NGOs, however, seems to be funding (Moving the Goalposts, Mondesa Youth Opportunities, and many more). A sustainable source of money is essential for providing equipment and coaches to set up sport leagues in the name of development. , Yet most NGOs are funded privately. When requesting grant money and other forms of aid from governments and international organizations, the response is often that there is scant proof that these programs are valuable, or even that they are efficient in meeting the mission to resolve poverty, stop the spread of HIV/AIDS, or anything else. Therefore, there is a great need for scholarly, empirical evidence to demonstrate the impact of these programs.

What is Next?

The sport of soccer and the country of South Africa, for many reasons, are an ideal pair for the addition of scholarly monitoring and evaluation of sport for HIV prevention schemes.

Soccer in Africa is called the “King Sport” because of its attraction and gathering of the masses. Soccer used to be used for the eyes, now it is used for the ears. Soccer in Africa is followed passionately from Morocco on down to South Africa. You’ll know when an important soccer match is being played in Africa because the country you are visiting will literally come to a standstill. Everywhere you go in Africa you’ll see young boys kicking around a soccer ball. Sometimes the ball will be made of plastic bags with string wrapped around it, sometimes it will be made of crumpled up paper. As long as it can be kicked, there will be a game. (7)

While I have discussed the level of economic, political, and health disparity in detail, it is important to notice that the sport of soccer, unlike many other entities on the continent, is thriving in Africa. Only recently has soccer been recognized for having a

A recent ad placed by FIFA for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa (FIFA, 2005).

A recent ad placed by FIFA for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa (FIFA, 2005).

potential to reach young children, adolescents, and adults with reproductive health and HIV/AIDS prevention messages. Since 2005, Johns Hopkins’ Center for Communication Programs (CCP) has developed communication interventions integrating soccer under the Caring Understanding Partnership (CUP) initiative (part of the “Sports for Life” program)(8).

In 2006, the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) President Sepp Blatter announced that the 2010 World Cup would be hosted by South Africa (Longman, 2004). From the day he announced this, the news was the final “icing on the cake” that Africa was waiting for in the sports arena. “You can see it all over Africa right now that teams are more than motivated to step up their game and ensure that their country participates in the coming world cup on their continent,” said Guillame Bakadi, a practitioner with CCP (2007).

This is the time for African teams to show that they own African soccer. Africa does not have the facilities that many teams in the developed world have, but allow me to say that soccer talent is plentiful in Africa. Take for example Tanzania, which has long been missing from the African soccer scene, let alone the international scene…the government has come in, employed a Brazilian coach and the game is changing for the Tanzanian side…the power of the game, and moreso the hope of taking part in the world cup on home soil, is inspiring it seems. (Bakadi, 2007)

For sport and development, this event provides a symbol with which African societies can identify. It is also an opportunity that the sport and development community can use to push development messages and agendas forward. LoveLife South Africa, the largest youth HIV/AIDS prevention campaign, is using the event to promote behavior change among youth. The immense attention the game and event are getting should also translate to strengthening sport and development programs, especially those based in Africa. After all, with the event comes greater focus on the African continent, the soccer game in Africa, and overall sports programs.

The worldwide attention that is on South Africa, and indeed other African countries as a result of hosting the event is bound to increase investment, and we see everyday that South Africans and Africans as a whole are seeing the potential for this event to shape their lives. At a meeting I had with a chief in a Limpopo province community, I was told that the hope for 2010 was that soccer tourists would visit the community and want to invest in its development. (9) Impact assessment of the role of sport and events like the World Cup in community change, however, is absolutely necessary in order to maximize support from the national, regional, and international governmental organizations. In turn, assessments will improve the aforementioned issues and will likely expose (and may remedy) problems already existing but not yet understood internally.


Adolf Ogi, former President of Switzerland and current UN adviser on Sport for Development and Peace, comments, “We have to consider that sport will not take away the attention from the most urgent issues of this world. On the contrary, it can support the most pressing matters, such as the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by offering innovative and pragmatic solutions” (UNESCO, 1992).

On numerous occasions and situations, sport has demonstrated that it can contribute to economic development by creating additional sources of income, such as the manufacture of sporting goods and the development of sport-related services, infrastructures, and events. In addition, as is the direct focus of this overview, sport can also produce indirect benefits by improving the overall health of a community that is physically active, thus contributing to a reduction in spending on health and increasing labor productivity.

States are now using sport as a way to gain visibility at the international level, and it is becoming more and more apparent that sport holds cross-over potential (Cornelissen, 2007). Scholarly pursuit of the issue over the past 20 years has greatly increased. One conclusion drawn among scholars is that fundraising is a significant issue for grassroots organizations (Forde, 2007). In order to obtain more funding, proving impact is of utmost importance.

Impact assessments must analyze the effectiveness of different health promotion and disease prevention strategies being employed by NGOs. One very important impact assessment is the interpretations of the children targeted by programs; accessibility to programs and marketing are just a few of the elements needing to be monitored. At the moment, both national governments and international donors are embracing the notion that they don’t see the need to do something (i.e. give money or time) when there is no guaranteed return. Convincing these entities of the effectiveness of sport for HIV prevention is the challenge I embrace as a practitioner in the coming year, and I hope others will join me in emphasizing M&E as a legitimizing factor for sport and development.


1. http://www.ohio.edu/sportsafrica/healthsciences/

2. Available online at http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/resources/

3. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/934435.stm

4. http://countdown2015mnch.org/documents/In%20the%20media/Lancet-New_hope_for_health_in_South_Africa.pdf

5. Many papers have addressed the idea that the presence of “third world” communicable diseases and malnutrition has compounded the impact of HIV/AIDS in developing countries, both from an immunological and a social science perspective.

6. Available online at http://www.sportanddev.org/en/index.htm

7. http://goafrica.about.com/od/workinafrica/a/soccer.htm

8. http://www.jhuccp.org/

9. Personal notes, 2006, Visit to Dzimauli, Limpopo Province, South Africa.


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Book Review
Sport and International Development
Jennifer McArdle



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