The World Cup represents a chance to help workers in the retail supply chain, says Mark Price

With the 2010 World Cup kicking off on June 11, there’s a real sense of excitement building. Not only are England tipped to lift the trophy, having looked impressive in qualifying, rarely have we seen a host nation with so much riding on a successful event.

It seems barely credible that 20 years have passed since Nelson Mandela’s long walk to freedom, which finally broke the bonds of apartheid; then came democratic elections in 1994; and François Pienaar leading the Springboks to a unifying victory in the 1995 Rugby World Cup - all are milestones that have helped South Africa emerge from the sporting wilderness of boycotts and political controversy.

In 2003, two years after FIFA announced South Africa as the 2010 host nation, President Thabo Mbeki said: “This is not a dream. It is a practical policy… the successful hosting of the FIFA World Cup in Africa will provide a powerful, irresistible momentum to African renaissance.” It looks like at least some of this lofty ambition will be realised.

The facilities at Soccer City, where the World Cup will start and finish, are described by those who have seen them as “magnificent”, but football is also playing its part in teaching teenagers about solid values for adult life at a grass roots level.

FIFA is working on 20 Football for Hope centres in disadvantaged areas and we’re doing our bit through the Waitrose Foundation, a partnership created in 2005 to help improve the lives of farm workers who produce fruit and wine for Waitrose.

The scheme has now been extended to suppliers in Ghana and Kenya and the money raised by the sale of Waitrose Foundation produce funds projects that are chosen by and directly benefit farm workers. All members of the supply chain contribute to the fund but no additional costs are passed to our customers. To date it has raised £4m and helped 16,000 workers.

It is World Cup year, the Foundation is celebrating its fifth birthday during tournament month, and Foundation farms have supplied millions of half-time oranges to footballers around Britain, so we wanted to add a sporting twist to the Foundation’s work.

Earlier this month, we sent Charlie Mangion from our Buckhurst Hill branch, and Nick Welford, a John Lewis driver, to South Africa to take their football coaching skills to youngsters and adults from 12 Waitrose Foundation farms.

Their trip was undertaken through our Partners in Sport initiative aimed at enabling partners to participate in sport and to encourage healthy living in the run-up to the 2012 Olympics.

Charlie sums up the impact of this investment: “We visited one school where the children had marked out pitches with stones and were using anything they could for a ball. Everyone we coached took enormous pride in pulling on their team shirts and playing on their own pitch.”

Sport has the power to positively affect people’s lives and we should wish South Africa well with this most important event.

Mark Price is managing director of Waitrose