Are You Ready For Some Fair Trade Football?

17 Nov


Stuffed deep in my backpack when I arrived in Ghana were two of James Milligan’s Social Conscience Sports Balls.  James is currently the only person selling Fair Trade certified sports balls in British Columbia.  He also supports an organization called OA Projects, which is a Vancouver based grassroots organization that uses soccer to help build stronger communities for war-affected youth.  James himself recently made a trip to East Africa (Uganda) with OA Projects to distribute some of his footballs to children.  Last weekend I helped him to cover a small bit of West Africa as well. 🙂

Why does the world need Fair Trade Certified Sports Balls?  Well roughly 70% of the world’s footballs are hand stitched in one small region of Pakistan, mostly by people who work long hours in poor conditions and earn less than the legal minimum wage.  As with all fair trade products, the certification for sports balls ensures that the workers receive a fair living wage, work under fair conditions, and child labour is prohibited (a 1996 study by the International Labour Organization (ILO) estimated that there were more than 7,000 children aged five to 14 working full time up to 11 hours a day stitching balls in the Sialkot region alone).  I thought it especially fitting to distribute fair trade certified balls here in Ghana, as these issues are prevalent here too.

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The balls have been sitting in my room here as I’ve been trying to make up my mind about who to give them to.  I considered giving them as a prize to students or just handing them over to a teacher at a school, but in the end I decided to give them to the village of Nchanchina where I had my village stay.  I have a personal bond with the place, which began when the children there invited me to play football with them on the first afternoon of my village stay.  I’m also confident in my friend Reuben’s ability to regulate the use of the balls and make sure everyone gets a change to play, including the girls (that’s Reuben shaking my hand above).

During my village stay, I made what I thought was a failed attempt to teach the small children who Reuben teaches each morning the song “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”  As it turns out, some of the song actually stuck with them, although they’ve adapted a few of the words.  In the attached video, the children provide the soundtrack for some footage I shot of the children of Nchanchina’s first games with their new footballs.  (Note that most of them play barefoot!)


If you would like to purchase a Fair Trade Certified sports ball, you can either contact James directly through his website, or you can buy tickets to Fair Trade Vancouver’s big Holiday Vendor Showcase on December 4th at Granville Island and buy one there along with your Fair Trade chocolate, shea butter, coffee, jewelry, clothing…  Where else can you hang out in a friendly environment with amazing people AND finish all of your holiday shopping by the 4th of December!!!

4 Responses to “Are You Ready For Some Fair Trade Football?”

  1. James Milligan November 17, 2010 at 5:48 pm #

    Well done Mark! I had no idea you took some soccer balls with you so this is quite the surprise post. Thanks for sharing with the kids as they are always happy and welcoming recipients.
    Keep up the good work!

  2. Jeff November 17, 2010 at 8:39 pm #


  3. Suzanne November 18, 2010 at 5:15 am #

    This video is almost too sweet for words. Thanks for brightening my day.


  1. Tweets that mention Are You Ready For Some Fair Trade Football? « Your Man In Africa -- - November 17, 2010

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by TransFair Canada, Mark Abbott. Mark Abbott said: Are You Ready For Some Fair Trade Football?: […]

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