World Cup shines attention on more than soccer

| June 19, 2014 | 0 Comments

soccerball_cropBy almost any measure, soccer is the most popular sport in the world, with billions of fans from countries on every continent. Even in the United States, where soccer has been slow to take root, its standing is on the rise. Today, millions play for fun and it’s easy to find a match on a cable sports channel almost any day of the week.

The World Cup is drawing even more attention to soccer as teams from 32 countries battle in Brazil for the game’s top prize. But the competition also is giving some Catholic groups the opportunity to raise awareness about a problem that’s prominent in many of the World Cup’s competing countries, one that no soccer fan is cheering: the scourge of persistent poverty and its debilitating effects.

Catholic Relief Services, the emergency relief and development agency of the U.S. Catholic community, recently launched a “Kick Poverty” campaign to draw attention to the issue.

Several countries where CRS serves are playing in the tournament, including Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Honduras, Ecuador, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Cameroon and Nigeria.

One in seven people worldwide lives in extreme poverty, according to CRS, which is asking people to consider making a contribution at to help its team of dedicated staffers to alleviate hunger and disease, deliver basic health care, promote peace and provide a better life for millions of people in need.

Meanwhile, the Brazilian bishops, who have been critical of their country’s leaders for spending loads of public money to host the World Cup, have pledged to help the poor and homeless and combat the problem of human trafficking and sexual exploitation that often accompanies such high profile international events.

The bishops are part of an interreligious campaign called “Play in Favor of Life — Report Human Trafficking.” It has equipped thousands of women religious, priests and religious brothers to raise awareness in parishes and schools and on the streets of Brazil about how to recognize and prevent the exploitation of youth and young adults.

Catholic sports fans would do well to do more than just watch the tournament this year, and use it as an educational opportunity to learn more about life in the competing countries and the everyday challenges their citizens face.

Pope Francis, a soccer fan himself, said the World Cup should be an occasion to promote international friendship, respect, good sportsmanship and solidarity. Such an approach fits nicely with the competition’s theme, “We Are One,” and Catholic social teaching, which commands us to love and care for our neighbor, no matter where they live or which soccer team they cheer for. That includes learning more about their lives and lending a helping hand however we can.

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Category: Editorials