RIO DE JANEIRO — Soccer is an international sport. It has provided many players with a way out of poverty. Players who have experienced poverty themselves can easily empathize with those still struggling at home. As a result, they use their resources and status to help eradicate poverty in their home countries. Five soccer players who are fighting poverty are discussed below in further detail.
Salomon Kalou (Cote d’Ivorie), Radamel Falcao (Colombia) and Keylor Navas (Costa Rica)
These three players know all too well the disturbing circumstance of poverty. The poverty rate in Salomon Kalou’s country is 42.7 percent, Radamel Falcao’s country faces a 32.7 percent poverty rate and Keylor Navas’s home country of Costa Rica has a poverty rate of 20.7 percent. For these countries, national development is a necessity for alleviating poverty. However, due to changing social circumstances, reductions in employment and class conflict, these efforts have been stalled. As a result, many individuals face living in prolonged poverty.
Kalou and his brother Bonaventure Kalou began the Kalou Foundation together. Established in England in 2009, the organization focuses on providing recreational centers and health care access to disadvantaged populations.
Falcoa is a passionate advocate for progressive methods to alleviate poverty in his country. He believes that “with continual government reinforcement of poverty as a priority, citizens suffering from extreme poverty and hunger can be liberated.” Navas of Costa Rica has expressed a desire to be a part of the movement and will be focusing on ending hunger in Costa Rica in the coming months.
The number one female soccer player in the world is also a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations. Marta Viera da Silva has been working with the U.N. on achieving the Millennium Development Goals since 2010. Her emphasis is on addressing poverty through the empowerment of women.
Having grown up in a poor neighborhood in Brazil over 1,200 miles from Rio de Janeiro, Marta is familiar with poverty. She is well known for giving funding and sports equipment to her hometown of Dois Riachos. She has also been involved in many U.N. poverty campaigns and awareness efforts including Match Against Poverty, UNDP Public Service Announcements and International Women’s Day campaigns. Marta has traveled to Sierra Leone to meet with students, social groups and young female soccer players.
Her most recent donation involved lending her image to the My World campaign, a U.N. survey that is working to gain public input on what improvements to address after the 2015 Millennium Development Goals have been achieved.
Oboya grew up in one of the poorest areas of Nairobi. Not only is he familiar with poverty, but he is also familiar with charitable organizations. One of these organizations, called MUSA, came to his aid when he and his family lost everything in a large slum fire. Today, Oboya uses the same grounds he grew up playing soccer on to educate young players in his community.
The South B United Soccer Academy, which Oboya is part of, provides opportunities for children to play soccer and receive mentoring. Oboya, along with other participants, teach life skills on and off the field.
They view the training and lessons as a way out of poverty and a path to success for the young players they train. Just as soccer provided a way out for them, they believe it can do the same for their communities.
Empathy is a powerful emotion that all these players are strongly familiar with. However, one does not have to be able to empathize to understand that no one should have to live in extreme poverty.
Helping the poor is not limited to soccer players or the previously poor for that matter. It is a shared responsibility and a gift to be able to help one another. Without a doubt, these five players are a strong example of that.