Social change through the power of sport

An exhibition of images shot by the Photographers for Hope at the Homeless World Cup in Brazil is showing at UEFA in Nyon – and displaying sport's transforming power.

UEFA is hosting a photography exhibition at the House of European Football in Nyon until February which features nine photos shot by the Photographers for Hope team during the eighth edition of the Homeless Street Soccer World Cup in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in September.

The exhibited pictures show how sport – and in this case football – can be used as a powerful instrument in addressing pressing social issues.

Eight photographers from Switzerland, Croatia, United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong, United States and Brazil gathered for a unique event in Rio de Janeiro where, under the guidance of renowned photographer David Burnett, they took on the challenging task of depicting the power of sport as tool for positive social change. Their mission is to use images to tell the stories of how sport can help transform a child, a family and a community in The Marvellous City.

In collaboration with the United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace – which was awarded UEFA's €1m charity cheque for 2010 – and the Brazilian branch of the Sport for Social Change Network, this group of snappers worked with the local NGOs that are harnessing the power of sports to promote healthier, safer and better communities across Rio's metropolitan area.

One of the main reasons they picked Rio de Janeiro was the Homeless Street Soccer World Cup, which was held from 19 to 26 September on Copacabana beach. With UEFA as one of its main supporters, the Homeless World Cup is an annual international football tournament that uses football as a catalyst to encourage homeless people to change their lives; and to change the attitudes of media, policy makers and the public to create better solutions to homelessness around the world. In Rio, 55 teams from 48 nations – including 12 women's teams – took part.

David Burnett, who admittedly is not fond of watching football, found himself captivated by the game. "This is unlike any other football game. It is fast paced, unpredictable and entertaining. Using a game like this to bring people together and raise awareness of the homelessness issue is fantastic. And doing this every year is very, very impressive," he said.

"What impressed me more than anything is the sense of camaraderie and sportsmanship you would not be able to find on any other football pitch. It was truly inspirational. Professional football has a lot to learn from this game," said Wilfried Lemke, the UN secretary-general's special adviser on sport for development and peace who also attended the Homeless World Cup for the first time.

The photographers from all corners of the world spent nearly two weeks in Rio, getting to know the local community and the participating teams. For all of them, it was the experience of a lifetime. At the end of the project, the group vowed that they would continue to challenge themselves and find opportunities to use their passion for photography for social change. You can contact them at, or visit the website (still under construction)