Former Manchester City right-back Pablo Zabaleta has paid a special visit to a neighbourhood in Buenos Aires to meet local young leaders using the power of football to help solve local water issues.
In the suburbs of Argentina's capital city, an estimated 3.7 million people do not have access to water mains, and last summer, water levels in the Paraná River hit a 77-year low. Zabaleta took along the Premier League Trophy that City won in the 2020-21 season and played football-based water education games with the La Cava community.
He also answered questions from young leaders and children, and learnt more about the challenges they face and the work of this unique programme to help address them.
Reflecting on his experience, Zabaleta said, “It’s a privilege to meet young leaders who are dedicated to supporting their communities and so inspiring to see first-hand how football is being used to improve the lives of young people in my home city.”
“It’s a privilege to meet young leaders who are dedicated to supporting their communities and so inspiring to see first-hand how football is being used to improve the lives of young people in my home city.”
The project he visited stems from Man City’s water-inspired PUMA away kit this season which celebrates football as a force for good. Produced with a special Dope Dye manufacturing process to reduce water consumption, the kit pays tribute to a unique partnership between PUMA, Cityzens Giving, and Xylem, supporting a global network of football and safe water programmes, aiming to reach 10,000 children across three continents.
This innovative global programme combines football-based education on water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH), with Xylem water technology to provide clean water access for communities in need.
In Buenos Aires, Young Leaders from Cityzens Giving partners Love Fútbol and Revolución Pelota, deliver regular football sessions in three communities - La Cava in San Isidro, Barrio Santa Rita, and El Pozo – engaging over 500 young people to give them a safe space to play and to educate them on water pollution, water conservation and WASH.
To complement the youth-led community football sessions, Xylem, Fundación Avina and local partners conducted a diagnostic study of their water supply and identified that unsafe quality, and access to proper hygiene facilities were critical issues at Revolución Pelota’s community centre.
To address this, Fundación Avina and its local partner Sumando installed new water filters to improve the drinking water supply at the centre, and engaged local employee volunteers from Xylem and PUMA to deliver workshops with youth and adults from the community to help them to understand the root causes of water pollution, and learn to properly test their water source. Volunteers also helped to install handwashing stations made from upcycled plastic, and to deliver football-based education on the importance of safe handwashing practices in disease prevention.
“As a Young Leader, the most important thing is the bond that we create with the children. We are teaching them the importance of hygiene and washing their hands, through football."
“As a Young Leader, the most important thing is the bond that we create with the children” says Nara, one of the Young Leaders in La Cava. “We are teaching them the importance of hygiene and washing their hands, through football. Being with Zabaleta was a great moment! He is a role model for us and learning from his experiences fills us with confidence and the motivation to keep going!’”
“Solving water is about so much more than technology; it’s about a true team effort and creative problem-solving,” said Joseph Vesey, Xylem’s chief marketing officer. “By combining educational programmes and the power of football, we aim to inspire the next generation of water leaders and make meaningful progress in solving the biggest challenges of our time.”
Gary Dixon, head of business unit marketing teamsport at PUMA said, “The Dope Dye manufacturing process drastically reduced the amount of water and dye used during the production of this kit, when compared to traditional ways of dying materials. We wanted to go beyond kit design, beyond technology, to have real impact on people’s lives."