Embracing diversity at the World Cup

The Football World Cup opens in South Africa on Friday 11 2010, the first time this event has been held on the African continent

Thirty-two teams will compete for the title of world’s best football nation beginning with a match between host nation South Africa and Mexico. Millions of local fans and television audiences around the world will be watching each of the contests.

UN Human Rights chief Navi Pillay, herself a South African and a football fan, has embraced the event as “perhaps the highest expression of football’s ability to join millions of people from all regions of the world in a common and joyous pursuit“.

“It is an opportune occasion to reflect on the fact that sport is meant to foster social cohesion, bring different cultures together in a celebration of healthy competition, and to overcome the diffidence and even contempt that all too often divide countries and communities in the political and social arenas,” Pillay says.

In recent years, the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) and the Union of European Football Associations have built programmes campaigning against racism in football. Before each of the quarter finals in the World Cup, FIFA plans to have the captain of each of the four teams read a declaration encouraging players, officials and fans around the world to reject all forms of racism.

The High Commissioner has welcomed these moves but has called for ongoing action. “Let us also be vigilant about racism and other manifestations of intolerance that poison sport--particularly football- that undermine its positive message and that bring it into disrepute. This happens all too often when the supporters of competing teams use intolerant slurs and even violence to vilify and attack their opponents.”

“The real winners of this year’s World Cup”, she says, “will be those who celebrate and uphold both in words and in deed its values of fair play, honest competition, respect and tolerance both on and off the field.”

United Nations Human Rights -> http://bit.ly/bA3mlV

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