COMMENT | Compelling stories of the perilous rescue of 12 Thai boys and their football coach trapped kilometres deep in the flooded caves of Tham Luang in Chiang Rai had kept me riveted over the past week even as I watched my favourite teams go down in the World Cup elimination.
For a while I was distracted from the gloomy news of tariff wars, and of children separated from their families at the US-Mexico border due to US President Donald Trump’s clampdown on asylum seekers from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. For a moment, a journalism of hope gave us stories of human endurance and the selfless courage of some who risk their lives to save another, more so when it’s a child.
As a parent, I felt for the Thai families whose sons aged 11 to 16 were shown huddled, dazed and emaciated on a ledge in the flooded chamber. The rescue of the Wild Boar football team, and the compassion verbalised and visualised in the world’s media provided a temporary relief even as I know that at the same time millions of babies are dying from preventable causes, children displaced, trafficked or killed in countries torn apart by sectarian strife and corrupt authoritarian regimes.
The World Cup and the International Federation of Association Football (Fifa)’s association with children of the world has indeed provided a breath of fresh air from the daily reportage of disputes and despair. The enduring spirit of the Thai boys and their soccer coach moved Fifa to invite them to the World Cup final in Moscow on July 15.
Fifa’s association with children as beacons of new hope goes way back to the 2002 World Cup season in South Korea and Japan. The organisation had then pledged to Unicef that it saw “football a valuable educational tool for youth since football combines elements such as discipline, respect, and fighting in a positive sense”.
“With football you learn how to win and how to lose,...