When Marco Da Costa Lopes ´11 decided to join a soccer game 16 years ago in his native South Africa, he never dreamed that one game would shape his moral fiber and later encourage him to study the sport.
"Growing up in Apartheid South Africa, I developed certain stereotypes, and typically, soccer was considered to be a sport segregated by race. But on that day, I realized that the only fundamental distinction I had from everyone else was our role on the field," Lopes said. "Ultimately, it was that very game that helped shape my morals and values."
Today, as an intern for the Homeless World Cup, an annual tournament held in the fall that gives individuals the tools to successfully reintegrate into society, Lopes is analyzing how soccer--specifically the World Cup and the Homeless World Cup--promotes social change and encourages economic development.
Lopes, a scholar of Connecticut College´s Toor Cummings Center for International Studies and the Liberal Arts, is front and center for both tournaments, and says the experience is giving him a new perspective on the topics he studied in class.
When he returns to campus in the fall, Lopes, an economics major, plans to incorporate his research and internship experience into a yearlong senior project, which every scholar completes as a part of the Center´s program.
"I want to investigate whether South Africa ´scored´ with the World Cup and if so by how much," Lopes said. "The World Cup is a large investment for South Africa, a nation that still struggles with issues, such as AIDS, poverty and crime, and many South Africans question whether hosting the event is worth the investment."
His internship, which is funded by the College, is also giving him the opportunity to make a difference. He is reaching out to the homeless by recruiting them for the national team, which will represent South Africa at the tournament in Rio, Brazil Sept. 19-26.
"This program is a means for social change," he said, "and my internship is enabling me to be a contributor to social change, not just a spectator."