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Abstract

Sport – as both a grassroots and elite movement – has long been used in various capacities to assist in the ‘development process’ especially in lower income countries. For example, sport is believed to display traits that assist in the education process, highlight health awareness issues, unify diverse communities and promote gender equality. Young people are the principal beneficiaries as sport is viewed as a particularly alluring vehicle to this generation. However, the relationship between sport and development has intensified in recent years, particularly since 2005 – a year that the United Nations declared to be its Year of Development and Peace through Sport and Physical Education. Sports mega events, especially but not solely, those held in lower income countries (such as the 2010 football World Cup hosted by South Africa) are notable for the rhetoric of the ‘promise of development’ attached to them. In this article, I address the growing academic debate and use a reflection of the 2010 football World Cup as the context around which to reflect the binary discussions evident. I take a critical stance that challenges the range of (often evangelical) support for sport-for-development. The article not only charts the perceived developmental benefits of the 2010 World Cup but also draws on my schooling in critical development studies to highlight limitations associated with it. In so doing, the critique of the developmental benefits of the World Cup echoes more general concerns within the sport-for-development relationship.