If your first thought about the link between football and human rights is the occasional racist and nationalistic chants from the stands, think twice. They have lots of values in common. Here are just five of them.
Respecting the Rules
Both football and human rights require uncompromising respect of the rules. Human rights have been laid out in the laws very well. There is hardly a place on Earth without at least some kind of human rights put on paper. However, that is not enough to enjoy the rights. If they are not being respected, all the laws are useless.
Not respecting the rules leads to punishment. No person or organization that fails to respect human rights should stay out of reach of law enforcement authorities. Impunity is not an option.
Football is a game where two teams compete against each other for victory. The winner is the one who scores more goals under certain constraints set by rules. If any of the teams or the players do not follow them, they will be penalized. Just like with human rights, there is no place for impunity. Without respecting the rules of the game, a football game is a failure. Without respecting human rights, the whole society and the whole life are a failure.
Fairness goes one step further than respecting the rules. It means that even though you are not required to do something good to someone else, you do it just because you can and are a good person. When a football player lies down on the pitch in pain, the other team doesn’t have to do anything about that. They can just keep playing as if nothing is going on. However, players almost always choose to kick the ball out of the playing field, so that the injured colleague can receive medical help. Then the other team can keep playing as well, but they usually choose to return the ball to their opponents.
That’s a great example of fair play. If we could only see the same amount of fair play in everyday life, human rights wouldn’t have been an issue all around the world. Respecting human rights requires fair play. It requires an understanding of the other, letting them express themselves freely, opting only for fair trials, and so on. Fairness is an inseparable part of human rights.
An Equal Chance for All
“May the better team win” is a very common saying on the football pitch. In simple words, it means: both teams start from zero, eleven players each, one ball, and clearly set rules. Both teams start with equal chance and can fight for victory.
Respecting human rights inevitably leads to an equal chance for all. If everyone had an equal chance like on the football pitch, it means the same chance for everyone regardless of their race, gender, nationality, religion, origin, sexual orientation, or any other attribute.
Fighting for human rights requires courage. In the eyes of the rest of the world, not having the heart to stand up for yourself or for someone else may mean that either you agree with the current situation or you don’t care at all.
Throughout history, there is a countless number of people who have been brave enough to fight for what they thought was right, but if those who hesitate can’t draw enough inspiration from them, football can provide inspiring examples. David v. Goliath type of battles is common in sports, as well as upsets created by underdogs. No one ever expected that Greece would have won the 2004 European Championship, that Nigeria would be crowned Olympic Champions in 1996, or that a small club like Leicester City would win the English Premier League in 2016. If you have the courage to put up a good fight, wonders may happen.
Football teaches camaraderie. When players are friends to each other regardless of race, nationality, or origin, that team has a great chance to win matches. Those teams can be turned into machines that can go through any obstacle they face.
It sounds a lot like a society that has its own challenges. Or the whole world, as there are more than enough global problems at any moment. But it is not as easy to direct everyone toward a common goal for the benefit of everyone. In general, people like their favorite football teams regardless of who their players are, but in real life, they care about race, religion, nationality, and other stuff, creating an obstacle for themselves. Many people watch football regularly, but unfortunately, from the perspective of human rights not all of them learn anything from it.