World Cup: The Simple Joy of the Soccer Ball

June 12, 2014

By

Michael Sandler

"They call it by many names: the sphere, the round, the tool, the globe, the balloon, the projectile." —Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano, "Soccer in Sun and Shadow"

 

 

As the World Cup returns to Brazil, it’s a good time to appreciate the simple joy that a soccer ball can bring—to boys, to girls, to children of any age.

 

Wherever there is no ball, people find ways to make one using any materials at hand. Pelé, Brazil’s greatest soccer hero, learned the game with a ball that his father made out of a sock stuffed with rags.

 

UNICEF does its best to make things easier for children and parents, placing two soccer balls into every UNICEF recreation kit. Some 70,000 balls were delivered last year, procured at local factories or shipped from the UNICEF Supply Division warehouse in Copenhagen. They went to, among other places, camps for Syrian refugees, child-friendly spaces for typhoon survivors in the Philippines and centers for displaced children in Mali—anywhere that children need to step away from suffering and experience the magic of play.

 

The photos below, taken by UNICEF through the years, show that the pleasure of the beautiful game is universal.

 

 

Caption

At a camp in Port-au-Prince, Haiti for people affected by the January 2010 earthquake. © UNICEF/HTIA2010-00363/Ramoneda

 

Abdel-Hamid, 7, a Syrian refugee, plays with a football outside his family’s tent shelter, in the Tal Al Abiad informal settlement in Baalbek, a town in the Bekaa Valley.

Outside a family’s tent shelter in 2013 in the Tal Al Abiad settlement for Syrian refugees in Baalbek, Lebanon. © UNICEF/NYHQ2013-1387/Noorani

 

School children play football at the Golachhari Government Primary School in Rangamati, one of the most disadvantaged and isolated areas of Bangladesh.

At Golachhari Government Primary School in Rangamati in 2014, one of the most disadvantaged and isolated areas of Bangladesh. © UNICEF/BANA2014-00554/Mawa

 

Caption

At a container that serves as a temporary kindergarten in a settlement for displaced persons in Sabirabad, Azerbaijan, 2004. © UNICEF/NYHQ2004-0607/Pirozzi

 

Young men with a homemade soccer ball in Mkangeni village, Malawi.

In Mkangeni village, Malawi in 2010. © UNICEF/MLWB2010-355/Noorani

 

Former child soldiers outside of a UNICEF-assisted transit center for recently released former child soldiers, in the town of N’dele, capital of the northern Bamingui-Bangoran Prefecture, Central African Republic.

Outside a UNICEF-assisted transit center for recently released former child soldiers in 2012 in N’dele, Central African Republic. © UNICEF/NYHQ2012-0898/Sokol

 

1994-A boy plays soccer on the street in the heavily damaged "front line" suburb of Dobrinja in the besieged capital city of Sarajevo.

On a street in the heavily damaged "frontline" suburb of Dobrinja in the besieged city of Sarajevo in 1994. © UNICEF/NYHQ1994-0910/LeMoyne

 

Boys play soccer at a settlement in the village of Nyamukwara near the Mozambican border.

Near a settlement for displaced families in the village of Nyamukwara, Zimbabwe, 2006. © UNICEF/NYHQ2006-0451/Pirozzi

 

Girls and boys play football at a boarding school for nomadic Bedouin children in Syria. (2006)

At a boarding school for nomadic Bedouin children in the village of Shola, Syria, 2006. © UNICEF/NYHQ2006-0738/Noorani

 

Children with disabilities play soccer on the lawn in front of an institution, circa 1950 in Italy.

On the lawn of an institution for children with disabilities in 1950s Italy. © UNICEF/NYHQ1950-0001/Seymour

 

Boys play football on the streets of Tarlabasi, a relatively poor section of the city of Istanbul.

On the streets of the Tarlabasi section of Istanbul, Turkey in 2005. © UNICEF/NYHQ2005-1186/LeMoyne

 

Boys play soccer in a field used for play by refugees from Kosovo in 1998, near the town of Bajram Curri, Albania.

 

In a field used for play by refugees from Kosovo in 1998, near the town of Bajram Curri, Albania. © UNICEF/NYHQ1998-0383/LeMoyne