Football for Life embodies OFC’s commitment to social
development in the Pacific region. Using the FIFA Football for Hope Movement as
a model, Football for Life aims to finance and support humanitarian aid
throughout Oceania’s communities.
The initiative was launched in 2007 to help victims of a
devastating tsunami that hit the Western Province of the Solomon Islands
killing almost 50 people and leaving thousands more homeless. OFC organised two charity matches
between New Zealand and Fiji and together with an appeal to FIFA helped to raise over $50,000 USD for the cause.
Moving into 2008, Football for Life continued to play a key role
in social development. During the OFC Olympic Football Tournaments for men and
women, OFC partnered with UNAIDS to organise and
promote ‘STOP HIV Day.’ The men’s tournament held in Fiji featured interactive
promotional displays and dedicated messages inserted into the pre-match
ceremony. All captains of the six participating nations delivered an HIV/AIDS
awareness message before their respective matches.
The campaign was also coordinated in Port Moresby, with the help
of Andrew Lepani, as the national women’s
teams of Papua New Guinea and New Zealand lined up for the OFC Women’s Olympic
Football Tournament. Coinciding with International Women’s Day, the campaign
was boosted by Dame Carol Kidu – Minister of
Community Development and OFC’s member on the FIFA Committee for Fair Play and
Social Responsibility – and the support of EMTV.
Football for Life also made an impact in 2009 by helping to
fund equipment bags that are being distributed to primary schools across the
region. The packs, which include balls, cones, bibs and resources, are part of
the ‘Just Play’ grassroots programme that promotes
physical activity for kids aged 6-13 and encourages community involvement.
The influence of Football for Life continued in 2011 as OFC donated a grant of $25,000 NZD to the New Zealand Football Christchurch Earthquake Appeal. OFC Executive Committee member and Vanuatu Football Federation President Lambert Maltock presented the cheque to New Zealand Football Chairman Frank van Hattum just before kick-off of the OFC U-20 Championship grand final between New Zealand and Solomon Islands at North Harbour Stadium in April 2011. The funds were put towards the recovery and development of the world game in a region that has been hit hard by a series of devastating earthquakes since a 7.1 magnitude tremor struck in September 2010. Just a month later, a grant of $25,000 NZD was also made to the Japanese Football Association to assist with relief efforts after the devastating earthquakes and tsunami that hit the country in March.
The Football for Life initiative has already made an impact in 2012, the people of Papua New Guinea being the beneficiaries this time as OFC donated $50,000 PGK to help those affected by the tragic sinking of a passenger ferry off the coast of Lae in February which claimed the lives of over 100 people.
All of these examples show how the power of football can be
utilised to deliver education and raise public awareness about social issues. OFC
will continue to look for future opportunities to use Football for Life as a
means of supporting social development in the Pacific.