FIFA, what do you stand for?

Pitbull performs prior to the opening game of the World Cup. (Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)
Pitbull performs prior to the opening game of the World Cup. (Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

In the lead up to the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, concerns of preparedness, financial stability and the social well-being of everyday Brazilians were commonplace. When the lights turned on in the Corinthians Arena in São Paulo last Thursday, any lingering animosity washed away as spectators around the world settled in for 32 days of the beautiful game.

At the opening ceremonies, international artists Pitbull, Jennifer Lopez and Cláudia Leitte performed the official song of FIFA 2014, “Ole Ola” (We are One). As with any mega sporting event—from the Olympics to the NBA Finals, the Super Bowl or the Stanley Cup—fans use the platform of the games, whether viewing in person or at home, to unite in support of their team. But what is it that we are uniting for—beyond love of the game?

Some unite for community. Some unite for cause. Last month, we saw one of the top three U.S. sporting leagues come together under the exact “We are One” banner to send a strong message against racism. The NBA’s ability to mobilize its fans and front offices alike solidifies the notion that, for some, sport is more than a game. The game is a starting point, a convening space, for something more. But in order to find what’s more, you have to stand for something. The NBA stands for tolerance.

What does FIFA stand for? Quite a bit, as it happens. We just wouldn’t know it given a dearth of media coverage and a lack of marketing resources spent promoting its social good campaigns.

The following message will be conveyed in the stadium in advance of each of the 64 matches:

“Today we strive not only for victory in the game, but for the victory of peace; for mutual respect, regardless of gender, race, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, religion or class. These are the values and aspirations of FIFA, the wider world of sport and people everywhere. We pledge to do our utmost to achieve global peace and a life of dignity for all.”

On June 5, FIFA launched its #SayNoToRacism social media awareness campaign with the help of a few actors from international soccer stardom. It is meant to coincide with the World Cup so that the conversation about racism, which is a major issue in international soccer, can happen simultaneous to the tournament. Collected images will be displayed on giant screens before each quarter-final match.

Current coverage of the World Cup shows wins and losses, sponsors, revenues and individual athlete celebrities. What it does not show are outcomes of another kind: awareness, solidarity, or convergence of culture in support of a larger goal, for example.

With greater awareness of FIFA’s socially oriented work will come higher expectations and greater responsibility to live up to the standard the organization has set for itself. However, alongside expectations and responsibilities, FIFA will find a more dedicated, action-oriented fan base that will help the organization achieve its stated goals in addition to purchasing products and supporting the organization’s financial bottom line.

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