Donation helps football-makers supplying Homeless World Cup

AS the Homeless World Cup kicks off today, the Edinburgh charity which organises the life-changing event has announced a unique partnership which will benefit struggling Pakistani workers who make millions of footballs for tournaments across the globe.

Ryan Mackie joins Hugh Aitken and Angus Coull in kicking off the Homeless World Cup with the specially designed balls. Picture: Supplied
Ryan Mackie joins Hugh Aitken and Angus Coull in kicking off the Homeless World Cup with the specially designed balls. Picture: Supplied

The Homeless World Cup Foundation has teamed up with Glasgow-based global travel search engine Skyscanner and Scottish sports co-operative Bala Sport to donate 325 specially designed and branded balls made in Sialkot for the duration of the tournament.

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The Pakistani city is dubbed “the real home of football” as it supplies the majority of footballs used across the globle.

A record entry of 72 teams from 54 counntries will take part in the eight-day street football tournatment in Oslo, Norway. This year’s tournament, now in its 15th year, will be broadcast to a record worldwide audience of more than three million.

Now, thanks to the Fairtrade partnership, tournament organiser The Homeless World Cup Foundation is ensuring that the often-forgotten army of men and women making footballs for the rest of the world to enjoy will also benefit.

A workforce of more than 40,000 people in the northern Pakistani city make an estimated 60 million hand-stitched footballs every year – 70 per cent of the world’s entire production – for multinational companies including Adidas, which provided the official ball of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

While many work in safe and regulated conditions others are not so fortunate, with an average annual wage of around £700. Bala Sport – whose name means both “ball” in Scottish Gaelic and “strength” in Punjabi – works with manufacturers in Sialkot to give a fairer deal to workers by importing their Fairtrade balls to the UK.

Through Fairtrade, men and women in Pakistan who make the Homeless World Cup Bala Astro balls, including the hand-stitchers, receive fair rates of pay, safe working conditions and access to union representation, as well as other benefits, including the likes of free eye and diabetes tests, free schoolbooks for workers’ kids, and helping to fund water purification plants. These are built outside the factory gates and enable anyone in the community, not just workers, to have access to free, safe drinking water.

Homeless World Cup Foundation Chief Executive Ryan Mackie said: “This partnership precisely highlights our ethos, that football should not be a game for the privileged few, but for all, regardless of their circumstance.

“The men and women of Sialkot who make the footballs enjoyed by the rest of the world deserve to be treated fairly, with dignity and respect, just like all of those taking part in the tournament in Oslo and all people who are experiencing homelessness.”

Bala Sport marketing director Angus Coull said: “Having been to the past two events in Amsterdam and Glasgow I’ve seen for myself the pride and self-esteem the tournament has helped build in the players. For our workers in Pakistan Fairtrade enables them to provide a better future for the families, so playing this tournament with Fairtrade balls makes perfect sense and is a real win-win situation for all.”

Hugh Aitken, senior commercial director at Skyscanner, said: “Skyscanner are delighted to be associated with the Homeless World Cup Foundation and this fantastic life-changing event, and would like to wish all the players at the tournament the best of luck.”

The Homeless World Cup Foundation has helped an estimated one million. The Oslo 2017 Homeless World Cup will kick off today with Norway against Chile.