Six Teens. Three Continents. A World Cup to Save Lives.

Five years ago, I discovered a movement.
My cousin was volunteering for Grassroot Soccer, an organization that uses soccer drills to teach children all over the continent of Africa the life skills to prevent AIDS. Soccer?! I instantly saw the potential for a film.
So I dug a little deeper, and what I found was a growing movement using the power of sports to tackle the most difficult of circumstances facing kids around the world.
I was never a particularly sporty kid—as my parents would readily divulge. One of their favorite stories to relay is me as a five-year-old, running away from the ball during a little league soccer game. (I swear there are pictures that refute that!)
But you don’t need to be a sports fanatic to understand that that fanaticism can run deep—particularly, when it’s over the religion of soccer.
And if soccer is religion, the World Cup is Mecca. Every four years, the majority of the world is glued to this one event. It dominates idle chatter, news reports, family dinner—everything becomes centered around the games.

In chasing down the sports-for-empowerment movement, I discovered the Football for Hope Festival—an innovative collaboration between streetfootballworld and FIFA, the governing body of the World Cup, to showcase the social dimension of soccer. In other words, an all-out international street soccer competition as an official part of the 2010 World Cup, where teams of teens from around the world using soccer to change their lives pit the universal drive to win against the values of sportsmanship and fair play. In other words, a “World Cup” to change lives.
When I discovered the festival, I knew I found my film’s narrative vehicle. Combining a story of social change with the world’s most popular sporting event? It was a no-brainer. I loved the idea of using a fun, exciting story to explore darker issues. I loved the idea of telling a global youth-driven story where kids from the most disparate backgrounds share a common language and a common goal: soccer and the drive for a better future. I could imagine a child anywhere in the world seeing themselves in these teens’ stories.
I taught after-school and summer programs for several years to teens from very different backgrounds. We used video and music production to get them to think critically about their communities. It took some time, but it worked. From those experiences, I could see how using the sport by which these kids often live and breathe, you could tackle topics they would otherwise resist. Similarly, by using a film that’s fun and exciting, we can teach kids from the most marginalized communities that they are not alone in this world, and hopefully empower them to fight for a better future.

So I quickly scoured the Football for Hope roster for the teams I wanted to focus on. It wasn’t easy! Streetfootballworld is an international body that contains within its umbrella hundreds of inspiring organizations from all over the globe. For instance, Magic Bus in India uses soccer to rise above slum life in Bombay. In Cambodia, Spirit of Soccer empowers children in lands ridden with minefields. And Football United gives refugee children in Australia a new home.
But with limited time and resources, I had to make tough decisions. I knew I wanted to include Team South Africa, as the representatives of the home of the first-ever World Cup on the African continent. Sphume and Zime’s story at WhizzKids United appealed to me because they’re surviving in the epicenter of the world’s HIV epidemic. Literally! Lamontville Township has the highest rate in South Africa and the highest in the world. Even more—as young women they are particularly vulnerable and are fighting the stereotype in their community that girls can’t play soccer Yeah they can!
I knew I wanted to include Team USA, because I’m American and I feel America often gets lost from the development dialogue. Nury and Mustapha, growing up in inner-city Philadelphia, have to make major life choices every day that mean the difference between a life in jail (or worse), and a life of success. And so, they chose to play soccer at STARFINDER, which has a 100 percent graduation rate in a city with a nearly 60 percent drop-out rate.
That left the third story… Maybe it’s growing up in NY, maybe it’s my background of chasing the human side of war stories since entering journalism... but I just could not resist the Israeli-Palestinian story from the PERES CENTER. The conflict is always presented as so impenetrable. But Ron, Liron, Liza and Abed—growing up in an environment of separation, violence and hate—play together on the PEACE TEAM.

Most of the footage has been shot before, during, and after the Festival. We have follow-up shoots scheduled with each of our teens as they prep the next set of teens for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
But now we face the daunting task of laying out the story. Six teens, three continents, four (plus!) languages... Nobody said it was going to be easy. But I have pulled together an incredible team with the experience to weave this complicated story into a compelling heartfelt narrative of journey, competition, and the transformative power of soccer.
By supporting our Kickstarter project you will bring us one step closer to premiering this film when the world’s eyes once again focus on soccer’s mecca—the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. But moreover, by supporting this film, you will show the world that we all want to change the lives of teens everywhere through the power of a ball.
This project is part of GOOD's series Push for Good—our guide to crowdfunding creative progress.\n
via Collection of the New-York Historical Society / Wikimedia Commons

Fredrick Douglass was born into slavery in 1818. At the age of 10 he was given to the Auld family.

As a child, he worked as a house slave and was able to learn to read and write, and he attempted to teach his fellow slaves the same skills.

At the age of 15, he was given to Thomas Auld, a cruel man who beat and starved his slaves and thwarted any opportunity for them to practice their faith or to learn to read or write.

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via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

On April 20, 1889 at the Braunau am Inn, in Upper Austria Salzburger located at Vorstadt 15, Alois and Klara Hitler brought a son into the world. They named him Adolph.

Little did they know he would grow up to be one of the greatest forces of evil the world has ever known.

The Hitlers moved out of the Braunau am Inn when Adolph was three, but the three-story butter-colored building still stands. It has been the subject of controversy for seven decades.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

The building was a meeting place for Nazi loyalists in the 1930s and '40s. After World War II, the building has become an informal pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis and veterans to glorify the murderous dictator.

The building was a thorn in the side to local government and residents to say the least.

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For years it was owned by Gerlinde Pommer, a descendant of the original owners. The Austrian government made numerous attempts to purchase it from her, but to no avail. The building has served many purposes, a school, a library, and a makeshift museum.

In 1989, a stone from the building was inscribed with:

"For Peace, Freedom

and Democracy.

Never Again Fascism.

Millions of Dead Remind [us]."

via Jo Oh / Wikimedia Commons

For three decades it was home to an organization that offered support and integration assistance for disabled people. But in 2011, the organization vacated the property because Pommer refused to bring it up to code.

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In 2017, the fight between the government and Pommer ended with it seizing the property. Authorities said it would get a "thorough architectural remodeling is necessary to permanently prevent the recognition and the symbolism of the building."

Now, the government intends to turn it into a police station which will surely deter any neo-Nazis from hanging around the building.

Austria has strict anti-Nazi laws that aim to prohibit any potential Nazi revival. The laws state that anyone who denies, belittles, condones or tries to justify the Nazi genocide or other Nazi crimes against humanity shall be punished with imprisonment for one year up to ten years.

In Austria the anti-Nazi laws are so strict one can go to prison for making the Nazi hand salute or saying "Heil Hitler."

"The future use of the house by the police should send an unmistakable signal that the role of this building as a memorial to the Nazis has been permanently revoked," Austria's IInterior Minister, Wolfgang Peschorn said in a statement.

The house is set to be redesigned following an international architectural competition.

via Chela Horsdal / Twitter

Amazon's "The Man in the High Castle" debuted the first episode of its final season last week.

The show is loosely based on an alternative history novel by Philip K. Dick that postulates what would happen if Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan controlled the United States after being victorious in World War II.

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via Mike Mozart / Flickr

Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in America, behind McDonald's and Starbucks, raking in over $10 billion a year.

But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

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In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage". I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

Chick-fil-A also has plans to expand to Boston, Massachusetts where its mayor, Thomas Menino, pledged to ban the restaurant from the city.

via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

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Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?


Oh, irony. You are having quite a day.

The Italian region of Veneto, which includes the city of Venice, is currently experiencing historic flooding. Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has stated that the flooding is a direct result of climate change, with the tide measuring the highest level in 50 years. The city (which is actually a collection of 100 islands in a lagoon—hence its famous canal streets), is no stranger to regular flooding, but is currently on the brink of declaring a state of emergency as waters refuse to recede.

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