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World Cup: The Simple Joy of the Soccer Ball
"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.
At a camp in Port-au-Prince, Haiti for people affected by the January 2010 earthquake. © UNICEF/HTIA2010-00363/Ramoneda
Outside a family’s tent shelter in 2013 in the Tal Al Abiad settlement for Syrian refugees in Baalbek, Lebanon. © UNICEF/NYHQ2013-1387/Noorani
At Golachhari Government Primary School in Rangamati in 2014, one of the most disadvantaged and isolated areas of Bangladesh. © UNICEF/BANA2014-00554/Mawa
At a container that serves as a temporary kindergarten in a settlement for displaced persons in Sabirabad, Azerbaijan, 2004. © UNICEF/NYHQ2004-0607/Pirozzi
In Mkangeni village, Malawi in 2010. © UNICEF/MLWB2010-355/Noorani
Outside a UNICEF-assisted transit center for recently released former child soldiers in 2012 in N’dele, Central African Republic. © UNICEF/NYHQ2012-0898/Sokol
On a street in the heavily damaged "frontline" suburb of Dobrinja in the besieged city of Sarajevo in 1994. © UNICEF/NYHQ1994-0910/LeMoyne
Near a settlement for displaced families in the village of Nyamukwara, Zimbabwe, 2006. © UNICEF/NYHQ2006-0451/Pirozzi
At a boarding school for nomadic Bedouin children in the village of Shola, Syria, 2006. © UNICEF/NYHQ2006-0738/Noorani
On the lawn of an institution for children with disabilities in 1950s Italy. © UNICEF/NYHQ1950-0001/Seymour
On the streets of the Tarlabasi section of Istanbul, Turkey in 2005. © UNICEF/NYHQ2005-1186/LeMoyne
In a field used for play by refugees from Kosovo in 1998, near the town of Bajram Curri, Albania. © UNICEF/NYHQ1998-0383/LeMoyne