For so many people reading these words, the pain and frustration of domestic league football continues to distract from what is most important.
A celebration of the game lies at the heart of the spectacle we will see in Russia in a few months’ time. It will be at the core of the sense of regional brotherhood when Asia’s best gather in the UAE next year and is the fundamental driver behind managers, parents, officials and players, hauling themselves out of bed on freezing cold winter mornings to kick a silly little sphere around a wet field.
It is indeed, a beautiful game. For most that is. Sadly, not everyone on this class divided planet receives the same access to and availability of resources and opportunities. In terms of football, that is a situation that should not exist.
The simplicity of football and the equipment required to play it, should make it the most universal of games. Feeding the poor, providing housing, employment and infrastructure, as well as achieving social justice for every beautiful creature on this planet, sometimes appear as pipe dreams. However, football is and should be, for all.
David Oswell and I share a common background in education, the difference between us is that David actually acts on the altruistic sense of justice and adventure we both possess.
As I remained firmly entrenched working in a private school, where my department considered, and I kid you not, whether to purchase a humidifier to keep the reams of photocopy paper at an appropriate temperature, David went to Africa.
Ghana in particular. On a voluntary teaching mission to the African nation in 2009, David thought it might be an opportunity to coach some football whilst there. Thinking ahead and having some familiarity with the challenging physical and financial conditions he would face upon arrival, he hatched a plan.
Asking close friends for any unwanted gear proved a valuable exercise, with generous individuals donating around one hundred pairs of boots, thirty footballs and some team kit.
David’s trip was as eye opening as one could imagine. The squalor and discomfort of African conditions shocks westerners no end. Living in the digital age, images of the third world aren’t foreign to any of us, however, the real life experience is something quite different.
I haven’t been to Ghana and have no intention to visit there in the short term yet what David has described to me was astonishing. His words painted vivid images in my mind, as I linked them with stored memories and media footage of the unfairness, injustice and poverty with which we are all too familiar.
What intrigued David the most was the absolute ignorance the children had towards the unfortunate nature of their existence and the conditions in which they were forced to survive. With only rudimentary educational and leisure facilities, the children of Accra played football on sand pitches with open sewers for sidelines.
Being in possession of ‘new’ boots and thumping a healthy looking ball around the roughly marked out pitch brought unadulterated smiles to their faces and an unbridled joy that belied their quality of life.
After a year abroad, David returned to Australia and became something of a conduit for people planning overseas trips to third world nations. The most heart-warming aspect of the entire experience was the committed desire and motivation of westerners to contribute to change whilst travelling the world.
So numerous where the enquiries and exponential the growth in donations, David’s initial willingness to make a difference to a small community became Their Beautiful Game; a not for profit organisation that since 2009 has donated over three thousand pairs of boots, five hundred footballs along with team kit, goalkeeper gloves and shin pads.
The initiative has become something far bigger than ever intended, with a presence now in Ghana, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, South Sudan, Zimbabwe, India, Nepal, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Brazil.
More locally Their Beautiful Game has now developed close ties with the Indigenous community, refugees and the homeless here in Australia.
The organisation kitted out the Street Socceroos for their World Cup in Oslo, as well as the National Indigenous Teams for their tour of New Zealand and prides itself on providing a pair of boots for refugees who want to play football at any level.
Making donations is never motivated by what one may receive in return. That would undermine the entire point of the donation in the first place. However, Their Beautiful Game is able to provide something immeasurably valuable to those who contribute to the program.
Connecting donors and recipients via an image of the player, beaming and proudly displaying their new equipment, provides a concrete depiction of the difference being made.
In the Western world, we see that image often. Christmas and the giving of gifts automatically lends itself to snaps of beautiful young kids showcasing the gift that Santa Clause has so meticulously handmade in his workshop.
In the west, there will always be a next Christmas, a coming birthday and another present. But for these kids, the gift is so much more rudimentary. They just want to play football.
To support the organisation and become involved just visit www.theirbeautifulgame.org.