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Thursday, 10 December 2009

The World Cup effect: West African role models, Charity and Sports Tourism

West Africa in the World Cup

The 2010 World Cup Finals in South Africa next year will give African football teams a great opportunity to shine on the global stage (an estimated 715.1 million people watched the 2006 final). West Africa Discovery greeted news of Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, and Nigeria’s qualifications with big smiles. After some friendly banter amongst the team about who we would be supporting next summer, we setup a poll to ask which team has the best chance of succeeding. My personal vote went to the Nigeria Super Eagles; it is always nice to see the underdogs succeed! The fact that half of the African teams that have qualified are West African goes to show the region’s dominance of African football.

On Friday afternoon I logged straight onto the sports news to check out the draw for the group stages. Obviously I was excited about England’s draw, but also wanted to check out who our West African teams had got. The draw for the group stages could prove to be challenging for the West African teams with Côte d'Ivoire drawing previous world cup winners, Brazil and Portugal, and the less formidable North Korea. Ghana was the only qualifying team to progress past the group stage in Germany 2006. They also have a tough draw facing Germany, Serbia and Australia. Nigeria who only just about qualified, face Argentina, Greece and South Korea. No easy draw for all teams concerned, but with a little luck who knows what could happen.

Of the six African teams, Cote d'Ivoire, with their world class striker Didier Drogba are the favourites for the competition. Didier Drogba plays for Chelsea in the English Premier League and has arguably the highest global profile amongst African players. Anyone who has watched Drogba in action will know that Côte d'Ivoire will be reliant on his strength and pace to get them through to the knockout stages.

Football and Charity

In the United Kingdom Drogba has a reputation of two halves. On one hand he is viewed as a talented player and goal scorer, but on the other he is can be viewed rather more negatively for being light footed and diving too often. Regardless of this, something that is less widely spoken about in the UK is his charity work and role model status for his native country. In 2007 he was appointed ‘Goodwill Ambassador’ by the United Nations Development Programme.

Drogba recently signed a new advertising deal with Pepsi worth £3million. He has pledged the entire amount to setting up a hospital and orphanage in Côte d'Ivoire that hopes to be up and running by the end of 2010. The hospital is part of the Didier Drogba Foundation - set up by the 31 year-old last year - and as well as being able to accommodate upwards of 200 patients the centre will be an orphanage. Unsurprisingly, this has had great support throughout the football and international community. Gestures and actions like these show the positive effect that football and sport in general can have on the communities that most need this investment.

Another footballer working towards helping West Africa is Welsh star Craig Bellamy. Craig Bellamy is infamous in the English Premier League for falling out with referees, managers and teammates, and is generally portrayed in a negative light in the UK media. However, despite his short temper and moments of misjudgement, he has invested time and money to help support West African communities. After visiting Sierra Leone in 2007 he has since setup the Craig Bellamy Foundation. The foundation runs a successful academy that not only teaches sport but seeks to give an education to disadvantaged children in Sierra Leone.

Craig Bellamy’s work sits alongside other schemes such as the Right to Dream academy in Ghana and supports the Score4Africa Living Football scheme which aims to use football to build community centres.

The international sports industry is worth billions of pounds, and by combining with foundations and charities, its key stars are taking the right steps in funnelling some of the funds into development amongst African communities. Let’s hope West Africa continues to produce stars like Drogba who, despite living the high life in European teams, continue to give back to the communities that nurtured their talents.

The World Cup and Sports Tourism

The World Cup in South Africa also looks likely to continue the growing development of sports tourism. Nigeria and the United States have a collaboration that should enable more American tourists to visit Nigeria to watch, and participate in traditional and contemporary sports, and related tourism activities in Nigeria. After hearing about Nigerian sports development I investigated further and read an article in TourismROI. The article describes the construction of impressive sounding luxurious resorts that cater for sports enthusiasts and by the sounds of things will provide jobs and stimulate economic opportunities in the area. However, will constructions on such a major scale take into consideration the environmental surroundings of the resort?

I think the best method for ‘sports tourism’ that will have a direct impact on the community is through grassroots volunteer schemes. There are more and more possibilities for sports ‘voluntourism’ that can help local communities to learn new skills. Projects such as Real Gap allow volunteers to travel to Ghana and help the local community by being a coach and mentor to local kids. If these projects take into consideration the criteria outlined in the Cape Town, Kerala and Belize declarations on Responsible Tourism; then not only will the communities benefit, but also the natural, cultural, social and historical heritages will be respected.

Just as in the UK, the African nation loves football. Hosting the World Cup for the first time can only help to develop community schemes and help the football industry. In 2010 the African nation will be dreaming of their stars holding the cup aloft. Just imagine the size of the party if an African team were to be victorious, an event that would unite the hopes and dreams of an entire continent. With these dreams, we must continue to use sport as a means to secure a better tomorrow for Africa.

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