TSG’s Beautiful Game Series explores how soccer brings about social change around the globe.
Here is Senda Athletics founder Santiago Halty
“The Beautiful Game” would not exist without a soccer ball. Something so simple can bring so many people so much joy. Sometimes that same ball can create distress at the same time, when the people who make them are not treated fairly. My goal after graduating from college was to make anyone happy with soccer, and I found that my way to do so was with Fair Trade Soccer balls!
Growing up in Argentina, soccer is a major part of daily life and so many people, including myself are passionate about it. When I decided to go to college in the United States, I realized that the world was a much bigger place. Although I enjoyed my time living in a different country, I found myself homesick many times. The main way that I stayed sane was playing soccer. Soccer was something that connected all kinds of people, with completely different backgrounds, through passion, camaraderie and a love of the game.
During my studies at UC San Diego, I learned about sweatshops in the athletic equipment industry, as well as an alternative known as Fair Trade. At one point, I realized how some soccer balls were being made: in very poor working conditions. Unfair wages, long working hours, and child labor were problems prevalent within the soccer ball industry. I saw the soccer ball, something that could bring so much joy, could also bring so much injustice to the people who manufactured it. I decided to combine my passion for soccer and my interest in other people’s well-being into making a fair trade soccer company—and in 2011, Senda Athletics officially launched in the Bay Area, California.
Fair trade means providing reasonable wages and hours, clean and safe working conditions, no child labor, and the ability for people to uphold their dignity by providing themselves with an honest living. Fair Trade USA, a nonprofit, certified Senda’s factory in Sialkot, Pakistan, as a Fair Trade factory.
In May of 2012, I visited the factory where Senda’s soccer balls are made. I was very pleased that I got to meet the people behind the product. I lived in the factory for ten days, and with the help of my guide’s translations, I was able to communicate with the workers. I also had a chance to meet some of their families, and even play a game of soccer.
In the worldwide context of soccer, the game is growing, both in popularity and skill, within the United States. It is important for this growing demographic of soccer lovers to realize that their balls can both come in quality and provide some good for people. Some skillful American players have already joined us on the path to making soccer a fair trade sport, such as Sam Cronin (San Jose Earthquakes) and Natalie Spilger (Chicago Red Stars).
I hope you will join us and change the world through soccer as well. I want to share this story of empowerment through Fair Trade and soccer with others, and to do so I just launched an Indiegogo campaign to make a short documentary, “Senda: Soccer’s Path to Fair Trade” about this trip, how Senda came to be, and our non-profit soccer partners. Anyone can contribute, and we have some great soccer and Fair Trade perks for our supporters!